Last week the geek in me was let out big time. I haven’t looked forward to an exhibit so much since the National Library had the ‘Treasures from the World’s Great Libraries’ exhibit (oh, back in 2002). The cause for this girl getting her geek on was the Instameet for the National Museum of Australia’s exhibit ‘The History of the World in 100 Objects’ which is currently on loan from the British Museum.

Shepenmehyt's Coffin 26th Dynasty, about 600 CE Qurna, Thebes, Egypt

Shepenmehyt’s Coffin
26th Dynasty, about 600 CE
Qurna, Thebes, Egypt

 

Dr Matthew Trinca, Director of the National Museum of Australia

Dr Matthew Trinca, Director of the National Museum of Australia

Director of the National Museum of Australia, Dr Mathew Trinca officially opened the night, informing us that this exhibit encompassed more than 2 million years of history and that it was the story of human beings on the planet. He asked us to look for the connections and distinctions between the exhibits. He compared walking through this exhibit to the journey you take when you read great literature – that while they take us into the lives of others, these objects would give us the opportunity to connect with them, even though their times and cultures are so different from our own.

Dri Michael Pickering, Senior Curator at the National Museum of Australia

Dr Michael Pickering, Senior Curator at the National Museum of Australia

Next we listened to the National Museum of Australia’s Senior Curator Dr Michael Pickering. He highlighted how the collection was not only displayed chronologically, but also grouped according to themes, such as ‘Ritual and Belief’ and ‘Innovation and Adaptation’. He set us a challenge – to find the object that we most connected with, and to ask ourselves, “How does this relate to me?” so that history would become relevant to us. He laughed and told us that his favourite object was the Lewis Chessmen, partly because, like the chess pieces, he liked to dress up as a Viking and go into battle in his spare time. In speaking to him later, he also told me that he loved how these chess pieces were representative of so much more than chess, that in its simplest chess could be called a pre-cursor to modern day games. All rely on strategy and the careful consideration of the greater consequences of your moves, if you were to win the game overall. He also informed us that the Director’s favourite object was the Head of Augustus, a controller of a vast empire – and chuckled and said he’d leave us to draw our own conclusions about what that said about Dr Trinca!

“All humans, since our earliest ancestors, have relied on the things they made to live; objects are a universal human necessity. By bringing together the objects in this catalogue, what becomes clear is that they often reveal many other shared human concerns. Some reveal the human desire for knowledge… others expose our most solemn preoccupations; our attempts to understand the divine, to negotiate death, and our constant entanglement with warfare and conflict.”   – A History of the World in 100 Object from the British Museum catalogue, NMA

We were then left to our own devices, to wander around the exhibit and take in the objects in our own time. One hour was no where near enough! Before we knew it, our private tour had come to an end. I don’t think I even made it through 50 objects! However, I did manage to capture some of my favourites.

 

Object 21: Statue of Ramesses II Granite, about 1280 BCE Temple of Khnum, Elephantine, Egypt Ramesses II was Pharaoh and "an extremely successful ruler, presiding over a golden age of prosperity and imperial power."

Object 21: Statue of Ramesses II
Granite, about 1280 BCE
Temple of Khnum, Elephantine, Egypt
Ramesses II was Pharaoh and “an extremely successful ruler, presiding over a golden age of prosperity and imperial power.”

 

A close up Object 29: Carving from the Great Stupa of Amaravati Limestone, 200 - 240 CE Amaravati, Andhra, Pradesh, India "Amaravati was one of the most important Buddhist sites in ancient India."

A close up Object 29: Carving from the Great Stupa of Amaravati
Limestone, 200 – 240 CE
Amaravati, Andhra, Pradesh, India
Amaravati was one of the most important Buddhist sites in ancient India.

 

Object(s) 53: Moche Warrior Pot Ceramic, 100 - 700 CE Peru "Moche people had no contact with Europe or Asia and they developed a distinct and captivating artistic tradition... Some of the pots depict particularly violent scenes."

Object(s) 53: Moche Warrior Pot
Ceramic, 100 – 700 CE
Peru
Moche people had no contact with Europe or Asia and they developed a distinct and captivating artistic tradition… Some of the pots depict particularly violent scenes.

 

Object 59: Inca Gold Llama Gold, 1400 - 1550 CE Peru The Inca ruled 12 million people spread across almost 5000 kilometres of the Andes.

Object 59: Inca Gold Llama
Gold, 1400 – 1550 CE
Peru
The Inca ruled 12 million people spread across almost 5000 kilometres of the Andes.

 

Object 64: The Lewis Chessmen Walrus Ivory, about 1150 - 1175 CE Found on the Isle of Lewis, probably made in Norway "As the game (chess) moved across the world the pieces change. Indian sets feature war elephants, while Islamic sets have abstract pieces and a male advisor to the king called a 'vizier'. The game was modified again in Christian Europe through the addition of queens and bishops to the board."

Object 64: The Lewis Chessmen
Walrus Ivory, about 1150 – 1175 CE
Found on the Isle of Lewis, probably made in Norway
As the game (chess) moved across the world the pieces change. Indian sets feature war elephants, while Islamic sets have abstract pieces and a male advisor to the king called a ‘vizier’. The game was modified again in Christian Europe through the addition of queens and bishops to the board.

 

Object 67: Chinese Blue-and-White Dish Glazed Porcelain, 1330 - 1350 CE Jingdezen (Jiangxi Province), China "Blue and white porcelain is one of the most successful luxury products in the world... the blue cobalt used in pieces like this dish was probably imported from Iran, In Chinese it was later known as huihui qing, meaning 'Muslim blue'."

Object 67: Chinese Blue-and-White Dish
Glazed Porcelain, 1330 – 1350 CE
Jingdezen (Jiangxi Province), China
Blue and white porcelain is one of the most successful luxury products in the world… the blue cobalt used in pieces like this dish was probably imported from Iran, In Chinese it was later known as huihui qing, meaning ‘Muslim blue’.

 

Object 70: Hebrew Astrolabe Brass, 1345 - 1355 CE Probably Spain "The astrolabe was the most advanced technology it the time - a scientific instrument that could be used to navigate, make mathematical calculations, work out horoscopes and establish the time."

Object 70: Hebrew Astrolabe
Brass, 1345 – 1355 CE
Probably Spain
The astrolabe was the most advanced technology it the time – a scientific instrument that could be used to navigate, make mathematical calculations, work out horoscopes and establish the time.

 

Of course, a visit isn't complete without a trip to the gift shop!

Of course, a visit isn’t complete without a trip to the gift shop!

A History of the World in 100 objects

Where: National Museum of Australia, Lawson Cres, Acton, Canberra ACT

When: 9th September 2016 – 29th January 2017

Open: Daily 9am-5pm

Cost: Adult $20, Concession $15, Child $8, Family $45

 

(All information written for each object is taken from the A History of the World in 100 Object from the British Museum catalogue, published by the National Museum of Australia)

Written by Nadia

2 Comments

Kirsty

Fabulous write up Nadia. So glad that so many precious artifacts are still in existence, what with all the destruction going on in this world. This exhibition is on my to-do list.

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