cymry: (Museum World)
Due to the fact that we're interviewing the person in charge of traveling exhibits at the Museum of Civilization sometime soon, Caitlyn and I decided that actually having seen the latest exhibit would be a good idea. It hadn't interested me that much from the description, but we decided to give it a try.

Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures From the National Museum, Kaboul traced artifacts that were hidden away before the Taliban descended on Afghanistan and which were only recovered a few years ago, after having been thought lost. The artifacts themselves were from 4 sites across the country, including a nomad tomb, a glass and pottery factory, and a Greek-influenced palace. The artifacts were quite varied in both substance and influence.

I was surprised to learn of the heavy Greek (from Alexander onwards) and Indian influences; the Persian and Bactrian were a bit more obvious. The tomb goods were almost all solid gold, which is what was so heavily portrayed in the posters and adverts, but it was the factory and palace artifacts that caught my eye. The factory was filled with glass vessels and wooden furniture inlaid with various materials: clear glass drinking cups with drawings on them (just like so many glasses today) and so many ways to use glass that I didn't think they knew back then, including a beautiful quartz drinking vessel that was so clear and precise that it looked like glass. A series of 3 ivory table legs were my favorites, depicting what they believe to be Ganga, an Indian river goddess - they were curvy and charismatic, carved with stunning precision. They were apparently discovered already stowed away in a packing crate, hence their relatively whole state (ivory is notoriously fragile and doesn't survive well).

There was also the Bactrian Aphrodite, a tiny gold ornament of Aphrodite with Indian adornments and posture, and Bactrian wings. She is a cross-cultural marvel. A mosaic mirror-back from the palace was my other favorite, with its teeny tiny pieces that each looked like a work of art in itself; even the fragments they'd recovered were breathtaking - the finished piece, whole and new, must have been a masterpiece.

some exhibit photos for the curious

The layout and design of the exhibit was equally impressive. We started noticing the mounts, all very precisely and unobtrusively molded to the shapes. Glass upright panels were often used as mounts to allow the visitor to see the back or inside of an object. The color schemes (red-beige for the palace room, which gave the impression of the sand dunes it was buried under) were particularly apt, with suede backing for the artifacts and even sand boxes for the pottery, as if they were in the process of being dug up. The semi-reconstructed pillars (fake pillars with the capitals perched on top) and the palace front, with its row of alcoves recalling pillared entrances and the procession of antefixes on top, just as they would have appeared in the palace, was particularly well done.

I still don't understand the CMC's habit of placing the big traveling exhibits in the back, in a hard-to-reach area, but not having to exit into a gift shop was nice (MBA, take note!). The CMC chose the more subtle path: a display case outside the exhibit with a smattering of relevant gift items, with no sign or price tags or "please buy me" encouragements. It's just enough to remind you that there is a gift shop, should you choose to purchase things. Much less jarring, thank you.

Very well done, overall. Which is good, because it means not having to dance around the issue when we interview the traveling exhibit manager. I could get used to this free museums thing, I really could. That little membership card is coming in quite handy.


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December 2016

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