Sunday, May 3, 2009

Going To The Museum

FDPG and I went down to the fancy museum in the provincial capital on Saturday. We went to see Treasures: The World's Cultures From the British Museum. I'd bought advance tickets for the curator's talk and tour for Max and I ages ago, but by the time the dates come up he was booked on a Scout camp at the same time, so I made FDPG go with me. She loves history, and was more than willing, but we both underestimated what the curator's lectures would be like. I had visions of a gripping, technicolour IMAX sort of thing (since the lecture was held in the IMAX theatre it seemed likely) and FDPG had visions of Corinthian helmets in a gripping, technicolour IMAX sort of thing (because that was the item she was most intent on seeing and that's how her mind works), but in the end neither of us were on the money. The curators were very nice, very erudite English lecturers, and they spoke in that way only witty English people can ("It rather delights me to see the Lewis chessman piece as the poster boy for this exhibit"), but it was a little on the dry side. No Powerpoint fireworks. No dramatic mood music. Just a few slides and a lot of talking. A lot of talking about Oceania and Melanesia, too; places we weren't sure had any connection with the items in the exhibit. And FDPG and I were the only people there under the age of 60. Good thing she isn't the kind of kid to give me a "What the hell are we here for?" look. Enough of the people around were giving me that very same look. I probably could've ignored her just as easily as I ignored them, but it was nice she didn't. I tend to quail under FDPG's fierce gaze.

After the lectures we were escorted on a tour of the items in the exhibit. Well, actually, I dashed off to plug the parking meter while FDPG elbowed the old ladies who tried to push her out of our place in line.

They had divided the items up according to continent and time period, and in the middle of the entire exhibit they had something called an Enlightenment Circle, where one could go in and play with various items: writing implements, listen to a Rosetta Stone inscription read out in 6 different languages, roll carved stone rolls across Silly Putty to see what they spelled out, and so on. But exhibit was quite spectacular. FDPG saw the Corinthian helmet she'd coveted, as well as some coins from Greece and Persia, and we both stood spell bound at the Egyptian items they had on display. And everything was lit so wonderfully, things seemed to glow. Only one item was a reproduction, which made everything else all the more magical.

But I couldn't take any photographs, sadly.

Afterwards we went to the place where they rob you of any remaining cash Treasure Shop, just to see what they had there, and discovered some of the things we'd seen on-line on the British Museum website. Umbrellas with Egyptian art on them, neckties with hieroglyphs, lots of kids educational materials, and lots and lots of beautifully painted mugs. FDPG was quite taken with these ones, until we up ended them to see their price tag, and even she knew better than to ask me to buy her one.

I have always had a weak spot for anything with Anubis on it. But this Anubis cost $1000. "Why don't you make one in papier-maché?" said Richard the Slightly Idiotic, when we got home and I showed him this photo. "Gosh," I said, "why don't I? I'm sure I have a spare 200 hours to whip one up."

I think he was joking.

I don't think I was.

FDPG and I got into a rather spirited conversation about Bastet, the Cat Goddess. FDPG got her mixed up with Seknet, the lion-headed goddess. So we wrangled pleasantly about it for a while, until we saw the tag on this baby ($1000 as well: don't see myself doing this in papier-maché, do you?) and it read BASTET CAT. Whereupon I crowed only a little. And FDPG glowered only a little.

Rosetta Stone bookends, anyone?

The chess sets they had for sale, while horrifically priced, were incredibly amusing: this one is Caesar and Cleopatra facing off. Another featured the Roman and the Greek gods squaring off.

And yet another featured the Poster Children of the Exhibit: The Lewis Chessmen. Here's what the BM says about them. And here's another view.

And of course FDPG had to get one of the replicas when we happened upon them. It's a very tactile object and we have all spent a lot of time holding it and rubbing its edges. "I LOVED these pieces. This knight makes up for that boring lecture," I overheard her telling her dad, later that day.

I bought a small papyrus, genuine-hand-painted-in-Egypt-specially-for-tourists print. I almost got the Bastet print, just so FDPG and I could wrangle pleasantly when we got home, but this one has a shot of Horus, and we all love Horus around these parts. I keep hoping we're going to see him strolling around the back yard one night, with his hawk's head sharply at an angle, eyes on the lookout for Osiris or Isis.

The one thing I was disappointed not to see was a book of postcards featuring all the items in the collection. There was a coffee table book, with lots of scholarly comments next to each photograph, but I wanted postcards, so I could tear them out and stick them up on the walls around here. So we could all look at the collection. And wonder. Because it's definitely a collection worth wondering about.

Even if I did have to resort to gift shop pictures.

When we got home, Dominic was waiting for FDPG with his Rock Monster Lego constructions. "Come see these!" he shouted at her as soon as she walked in the front door. Off she went. A minute later she was back in the kitchen, and Dominic was slamming his bedroom door. "What's up?" I asked her. "Oh, that Dominic," she said, "there was me having a really boring morning and all he can talk about it Lego."

Gee, FDPG. I'm SO glad you had a good time.


Rebecca said...

Gosh, I love museum shops. I'm going this week! I love that knight. I'm going to call and ask them to put one aside for us. It's adorable!! (or maybe we'll go tomorrow)

BTW, was the Rosetta stone there in person? I had a fit when we were at the British Museum years ago and people were actually touching it. Pawing it, getting their greasy and destructive finger oils over all it... arghhhhh! Anyway, I would LOVE to see it again. But the bookends would be okay, too.

Thanks for the motivation to get out the door.

Anonymous said...

That sounds like an awesome day. I love museum gift shops!

Oh dear -- I feel compelled to confess: I touched the Rosetta Stone when I was at the British Museum. I couldn't resist. Sorry, Rebecca.

sheila said...

Rebecca, yes, the Rosetta stone WAS there. I don't remember if it was a replica but it was safely behind glass. No touching for anyone (and yes, I too touched it when I was in the BM, but then, I went to Stonehenge when you could still walk around and climb on the stones). It's a fabulous exhibit. You'll love it.
Subspace, you are SUCH a rebel! Remind me never to tour a Touch The Slimey Bug Exhibit with you (in case you wipe your hands on me). But to be honest, I can't resist either. They had items you could hold in this particular exhibit, things like tools and figures, and the Empath part of me held them tight, hoping for a message from the past.

shaun said...

Oh man, it's been so long since I've been to the BM -- I am totally jealous!

Suji said...

Beautiful, beautiful chess sets...when (if ever) we buy a house, I'm getting one to display in the living room. Just for me. Even if I have to give up a decade of birthday gifts :)