Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Museum Time Forgot

One of the blogs I read regularly is the wonderfully quirky Curious Expeditions. It's written by two people who are, as they say, "devoted to unearthing and documenting the wondrous, the macabre, and the obscure from around the globe." In the time that I've been reading the blog, they've come up with some really amazing things, plucked from the dusty corners of shops and markets across the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

A few weeks ago, they were in Romania and wrote about what they called "
The Museum Time Forgot." This was the Zoological Museum in Cluj-Napoca, Romania (picture above from Curious Expeditions). Coming as this post did just a month after I wrote about the old methods of exhibition, I found it an interesting example of a real-life museum stuck in the past.

So feel free to click through to the post and read more about this museum. The folks at Curious Expeditions, having been there in person, have certainly written a more detailed & thoughtful description of the museum than I would be capable of. However, please be aware that their photos include some potentially disturbing images of dissected animals (including a human fetus). The photos aren't for the faint of heart, but I think it's a valuable peek at such an anachronistic museum.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Turquoise Mountain

Tonight, I wanted to highlight what I think is a really excellent organization: the Turquoise Mountain Foundation. To borrow from their website, "Turquoise Mountain is investing in the regeneration of the historic commercial centre of Kabul, providing basic services, saving historic buildings and constructing a new bazaar and galleries for traditional craft businesses." The screenshot above shows a few examples of the types of historic buildings they are trying to save.
As I wrote about the restitution of cultural property, there are always a number of political issues in international organizations like this. However, in the end, the important thing is that someone cares enough to preserve pieces of history for future generations.

The Foundation's CEO is
Rory Stewart, a very interesting man with a very interesting background. Click on the link to read about his early life & his previous work in Iraq. I wrote a review of his book The Places in Between over the winter. Here's an excerpt:
Written during a transitory and transformative time in Afghanistan’s history, The Places in Between is an honest and thoughtful look at that country and its people. Both the people he encounters and the landscape through which he passes shape Stewart’s understanding of Afghanistan. In a sense, he also imprinted that place, however lightly. In an article he wrote for the London Review of Books a couple of months prior to his walk through Afghanistan, he speaks of his experience walking across Iran. He writes, “By day, I sometimes experienced a fragile coincidence of mind, landscape and muscle which made me feel more substantial. I might look back at a peak I had crossed three days before. My footsteps left prints in the earth behind me, stretching back over the thousand miles I had walked in the past months.” In the end, who we are, as individuals or as a nation, has much to do with that give-and-take, the interplay between how we shape our landscape and how our landscape shapes us.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Monday, May 5, 2008

Not the End

Our final week of classes is this week. As I mentioned in the beginning, I began this blog for a specific course on regional material culture. Both the course and the blog have been very interesting learning experiences. I was also fortunate to be completing an internship with a curatorial department while taking the course and writing the blog, so all three experiences with objects helped reinforce each other.

I'd like to think that I now have a greater understanding of how objects can both reflect and affect a myriad of things. From social standing to philosophical world view to regional patterns, something as simple as a wooden chair or a pottery bowl can tell the careful and practiced observer volumes. Becoming that careful and practiced observer is a way for me to both improve my knowledge of museum collections and convey that knowledge to visitors.

I plan to continue this blog, in a more broadly structured way. I'll continue to post recent museum news and reflect on stories as I go. I also hope to foster some dialogue with other blogs dedicated to emerging museum professionals (like this one). To that end, I may open up comments at some point to encourage readers to weigh in. I'm looking forward to the future of Museophilia!