The Top 5 Reasons I Love Museums

The Top 5 Reasons why I Love Museums

1) Artefacts: Handling, Preservation and Conservation

I’m first and foremost an archaeologist, and because of this I actually think a Saturday afternoon spent cataloguing and photographing an interesting archaeological collection is great fun to be had. ;P I may be unique in this.

However, there has been a lot of talk bouncing around the museum world lately about whether a museum needs a collection to be a ‘Museum.’ Whereas, I do think there are valid examples of instances where a collection isn’t necessary; I do think that the element of authenticity found in real artefacts is unbeatable.

Cuneiform Foundation Cone c. 2144 – 2124 B.C.E
(Part of the Lost Collections exhibit)

2) Environment: The meeting of like minded people

The Best place to find other people who like museums, art, culture, history, heritage, etc. is to work at, volunteer for, or just hang around at museums!

At the Lost Collections Opening
At the Lost Collections Opening

3) Learning: Fueling our life long curiosities

I love learning new things, and it’s almost impossible to visit a museum and not learn.

Students participating in simulated underwater archaeology dig
Students participating in simulated underwater archaeology dig

4) Heritage: Housing and interpreting our collective Cultures

Museums offer visual essays of our collective cultures (Like a real life Pinterest!). Visitors can explore a cross-section of artefacts and images that illustrate the history of a place, people, or culture. (However, It is important to note that the stories told are usually those the local populations want to be told. Museums often avoid conflict and can be used as propaganda – the latter I do not like at all.)

5) Commentary: The past can illustrate the Present and inform the future

I especially enjoy exhibitions that have a good thought out and illustrated thesis. I find these kinds of exhibitions are rare, but when they are successful, they have the power to make social commentary, offer new interpretations of past cultures and events, and can help others to understand just why the past is worth knowing.


New Series: My favourite Artefacts

Archaeologists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries

I love early archaeologists – Or I suppose I should say antiquarians. The greats of the early age – Heinrich Schliemann,  Howard Carter, and Sir Arthur Evans for example. They used no proper scientific methods by any stretch of the imagination; And they probably did more damage to the sites they excavated than good. But their passion and their excitement over the past is what affects all us crazy archaeologists – and we are crazy – In a good way 🙂

These are a few artefacts in particular, which illustrate the lack of scientific method, or logical deduction used by these early archaeologists.

The Mask of Agamemnon, which was excavated by Heinrich Schliemann at Mycenae in 1876. This hammered gold mask was labeled as the burial mask of the legendary king of Mycenae, largely because Schliemann WANTED it to be Agamemnon’s. He had virtually no evidence whatsoever (and it’s authenticity to the site is even questioned).

Who was this man really?

The Queen’s Throne, which was found on the Island of Crete at the site of ancient Knossos.  Was restored in 1930 by Sir Arthur Evans. That this is a Queen’s throne is skeptical; is it even a throne?  Evans’ evidence for the reconstruction was tenuous at best.

"Queen's Throne Room," Knossos

Howard Carter literally ripped the wrapping from King Tutankhamun’s face in his excitement to remove his gold burial mask after discovering his tomb in 1922.

Tutankhamun's burial mask

Though we find many cringe worthy elements about these men today. I find it hard to blame them for their faults. Looking back with hindsight – we know what they were doing wrong. However, like with any profession, there were some growing pains and lessons learned. Their methods may be outdated – and sometimes questionable, but their enthusiasm created those of us who follow in their footsteps.

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