Tags: archaeology, art, biology, food, history, humor, massachusetts, multicultural
The month is almost over, but I can’t let it go completely by without tipping my hat to Massachusetts Archaeology Month.
Since life here at PEM has been very focused on the amazing Emperor’s Private Paradise exhibit, I have to admit I’ve been more tuned to archaeology stories from that corner of the world recently, including this incredibly cool discovery which may make people reevaluate historical trade routes: Could a Rusty Coin Re-Write Chinese-African History?
In celebration of which I give you Mint Your Own Coin from the American Museum of Natural History’s OLogy page, which also features fun interviews with archaeologists, make-your-own archaeological stationery, artifact features, and more.
If you’re looking for other online archaeology interactives, check out the extensive list at Fun Archaeology For Kids. The list includes lots of different cultures and time periods, with a great many of the interactives created by museums and other reputable sources.
And now for the creepy. (It is, after all, the week before Halloween, and I’m not entirely immune to the Salem atmosphere.)
Royal blood may be hidden inside decorated gourd. (eeurgh!) An intricately decorated gourd bears traces of blood which may very well have come from a handkerchief soaked in the blood of the beheaded King Louis XVI of France.
Personally, I prefer my blood 100% Pure Fake, as in the book reviewed by exhibit interactive wizard Paul Orselli. And if that’s not enough gross and gucky exploration for you, check out Wastewater: Sewage in your face! from the San Diego department of public works, which, among other more educationally rewarding activities, has recipes for making soda and cake that look like sludge.
All creeped out? Build an Egyptian tomb, uncover a prehistoric burial, or just make a pasta skeleton, courtesy of artist Kathy Barbro, directions here (or click the picture).
Tags: archaeology, art, exhibit_review, history
Disclaimer: I totally love National Geographic. You, my astute readers, will have figured that out already.
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My family and I spent the long weekend in Washington DC, enjoying a little respite from New England snow, and taking in (as one does, when one lives in a museum-mad family and works in a museum) the cultural sights. Though I’d love to give detailed reviews of everything (kudos to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, for instance, for a fascinating exhibit design in “State of Deception: Nazi Propaganda” which I wish I’d had more time to explore), I’m going to focus on the original impetus for the visit, which was National Geographic’s Terracotta Warriors: Guardian’s of China’s First Emperor.
Sadly, there were no pictures allowed inside the exhibition, so I have no photos of my own to share. Fortunately, they bent the rules for their own bloggers, so there are some fabulous pictures of objects in the exhibition and at least some small sense of the layout available here. One of the things I thought they did best in this exhibit was that each element was allowed its own space: the exhibit areas weren’t over crowded, which was important given how many people were trying to view them, and where two or three statues or other artifacts were placed together, it made sense and helped advance the ideas and context which the audioguide and interpretive panels were trying to convey. It seems like a very basic and obvious thing to get right, but it’s noticeable in the traffic flow and the overall feeling and satisfaction of the visit if artworks or other objects are placed awkwardly.
There was a lot of overlap between the text panels and the audioguide, but enough difference that for the slow-paced intent studier like myself, it was worth listening and reading both. I appreciated the context provided regarding the period especially immediately before the rise of Emperor Qin, but thought (as I have thought about many exhibitions before, including the MFA’s Tomb 10A exhibit) that it would have benefited from a timeline somewhere early in the exhibit, possibly also including reference points to western/European events of the same time period, to provide that extra hook for those of us who had largely Eurocentric history educations. (For the record, NG does apparently have a video segment not featured in the exhibit anywhere which mentions a little of what was going on in Rome at the same time period, which I’ve embedded below.)
Overall, however, I loved it. I thought it was fascinating, the figures themselves were stunning displays of individuality and craftsmanship and technique, and the overwhelming impression that I left with was one of a man who commanded immense power and influence, and who, like many strong rulers in other cultures, created an infrastructure that allowed the arts to flourish. Very cool.
(Video: A reconstructed flyover of what they think the complex around Emperor Qin’s burial mound would have looked like.)
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More fun Chinese themed posts to come as we approach Lunar New Year, but for now I leave you with the events listing for Lunar New Year at the Peabody Essex Museum, which promises to be a huge amount of fun.
Tags: archaeology, art, history, NEMA, professional development, reading
Welcome back, folks!
Before we launch into all the cool and exciting new stuff planned for 2010, I wanted to take a chance to wrap up some leftover business from 2009. I posted my own contributions to the New England Museum Association conference in November, and promised the slideshows from my co-presenters, Mike Adams of Boston’s Museum of Science, and Nancy Jones of Longfellow National Historic Site. Mike’s fabulous talk focused on the ways in which the MOS adds to existing programs, reworks older programs, and invites in local experts from numerous other institutions to host Archaeology Week every October. Nancy’s marvelous contribution brought art, literature, and history to the discussion, with examples of hands-on crafts, teen involvement projects, music, and a dash of poetry.
Tags: archaeology, food, history, weather, winter
Let it Snow
You would think I’d be done with cool snow-themed links by now, right? Nope.
Guide to Snowflakes from CalTech. Great chart of the immense variety of snow crystal shapes, with neat pictures by Ken Libbrecht and descriptions of some of the conditions needed to form specific kinds of snowflakes. This is just one page out of a pretty impressive site all about snow and frost. Well worth exploring. (One of my favorite accidental discoveries on this site was the page on how to make snowflake fossils.)
Solstice: the day the sun stands still (from the Latin)
Find all kinds of cool facts about the solstice today from National Geographic (you’ve all noticed I love these guys by now, I should hope?) I particularly enjoyed the mention of Newgrange, an incredibly cool Stone Age monument/tomb in Ireland which is 1000 years older than Stonehenge. When it was built, it was designed to exactly align with the winter solstice dawn. I visited it in summer, and it was still impressive then.
Here we come a wassailing
What’s the solstice without a touch of celebration? Despite my general fondness towards things historical, I haven’t tried either of these recipes yet. However, they look delicious and have very positive reviews, so taste at your own discretion.
Happy Holidays to all! This blog will be going on vacation until Jan. 2nd, 2010. May you and yours be safe, warm, merry, and curious this holiday season.
Tags: archaeology, art, diy, history, video/animation, writing
This does not, I suppose, technically qualify as archaeology.
However, in the theme of really-cool-bygone-stuff, I bring you: The Animated Bayeux Tapestry.
This is no substitute for getting to see the real thing–the sheer immensity of this tapestry just does not convey on a video clip. However, it’s a cunning piece of animation, and the foley artist involved clearly had a lot of fun with everything from the feasting noises to the horses to the ‘guuuuh’ and ‘gack’ sounds of battle. And if you’re looking for a way to liven up the story of 1066 and the Norman Conquest, this is a fun way to go about it.
Have I whetted your appetite for tapestries, Normans, or movie-making?
Britain’s Museum of Reading has a great site about the Bayeux Tapestry, including an activities page which made me grin. [Specifically the directions on how to make your own Norman soldier's helmet. (Halloween, anyone?)]
If it’s the sounds that really caught your fancy, check out Paul Orselli’s great recent blog post: Exhibit Designer’s Toolkit: Creating the Sounds of Gore and Squidge
And if you’re intrigued by the illustration style of the medieval tapestry, try your hand at the Historic Tale Construction Cit (presumably pronounced ‘kit’ as all ‘c’s are hard). Write and illustrate your own story using figures, settings, and beasts from the Bayeux Tapestry–careful, this is a hoot and dangerously addictive to those of us who grew up loving computer programs like Storybook Weaver. The image interface is pretty sound, too–you can resize and flip the image elements, as well as type captions, with the option to create several frames, save them, email them, and submit to a visitor-created gallery.
Tags: archaeology, art, history, museums in the news
There’s been a lot of fun stuff going on in the world to do with archaeology!
Upcoming local event if you’re in Boston:
Next week is Archaeology Week at the Museum of Science. Though The Discovery Museums sadly isn’t going to be there this year, we were last year and it was a blast. I highly recommend the Fair on Friday and Saturday. Hopefully we’ll see you there next year, too!
Awesome new discovery in England:
Just a few weeks ago, news broke of a hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and metalwork found in a private farmer’s field by an amateur with a metal detector. More details on Huffington Post and more pictures on National Geographic.
For kid-friendly background on the Anglo-Saxons, check out the BBC Primary History site here, including activity suggestions on the Teacher Resources page.
There aren’t a lot of metal working simulation activities out there for kids–I intend to do some playing around with aluminum foil to see if I come up with anything fun, and if I do, I’ll be sure to post it.
Archaeology as a Character in Art:
Have you ever heard of Goverthing, the lost New York settlement last seen around the mid-1950′s? Neither have most other people, but in a really neat confluence of art, imagination, and archaeology, visitors to Governor’s Island witnessed a dig uncovering this buried town. Playing with the ideas of how we look at history, what we believe based on what’s buried in the ground, and just how gullible people are or aren’t, this exhibition looks like it was a lot of fun.
Technically, of course, I should have waited for Thursday to make this post, but I’m jumping the gun a little so that people don’t miss cool stuff happening at the beginning of the month.
October is Archaeology Month in Massachusetts, which means that places all over the state from libraries to museums to historical sites to town councils are sponsoring or hosting archaeological activities for the next 30-odd days. (Some of them may be very odd, but don’t blame me!) There’s a calendar of events available on the website, and also a great collection of resources for educators, including books, websites, museum links, and links especially for kids. I don’t get the occasion to say this very often, but –Go Massachusetts Historical Commission!
If you’re curious, my museum, The Discovery Museums in Acton, is offering several archaeology themed programs this upcoming month:
Thursday, October 8
Uncovering the Past
3:00 PM Science Discovery
Uncover various artifacts and food remains including historic pottery, bottles, animal bones and seeds during a mock midden dig led by archaeologist Marty Dudek. Middens, the remains of old trash heaps, are important archeological sites. Try your hand at mending pottery, identifying vessel forms and measuring their size. Identify animal bones and recover seeds through flotation or water sifting. Find out about basic excavation and recovery methods and discover how archeologists learn about diet. This program is sponsored by Red Hat, Inc.
Monday October 12
Preschool Archaeology Dig
10:00 AM Children’s Discovery
Come explore our mock archaeology dig site. What will you discover? Use your “artifacts” to make an artistic collage to commemorate your adventure.
Tuesday, October 27
Pound Like an Egyptian: Papyrus Paper Making
3:00 PM Science Discovery
From the banks of the Nile all the way to The Discovery Museums—these strips of papyrus have a fascinating story. Celebrate the feast of Thoth with us today, and learn about the way ancient Egyptians used papyrus paper. Experiment with different techniques to make your own piece to take home!
So keep your eyes open for other archaeology-related posts throughout October!