Invention Playlist 4: The Museum


Today's episode is brought to you by IBM. SMART is open open is smart. IBM's combining their industry expertise with open source leadership of Red Hat. Let's unlock the world's potential. Let's put smart to work. Learn more at IBM dot. com slash red hat. Guys? It's bobby bones I host the bobby bones show and I'm pretty much always sleep because I wake up with three o'clock in the morning a couple of hours later I. Get all my friends together, and we get into a room and we do a radio show. Wish you're alive. We tell our stories. We try to find as much in the world. Possibly can, and we looked through the news of the day that you'll care about also your favorite country artists are always stopping by to hang out and share their lives and music, too. So wake up with a bunch of my friends on ninety eight point seven W. MC in Washington DC or wherever the rotates you on the iheartradio, APP. Welcome to invention a production of iheartradio. Hey you welcome to invention. My name is Robert. Lamb and I'm Joe McCormick. Humans are are aware of history that's one of our key attributes, not always though well to varying degrees of history where we have awareness of of of what we think history to be. And not just our own personal history, but history across generations across decades centuries millennia. Even we're aware of what came before via oral traditions, and the evidence of the world around us, even as we continually change in anticipation of the future, and then of course we have recorded history as well, and we have a concept of history that goes beyond concern for literal accuracy about what happened in the past. I think about everything from ancient mythologies, in which people tried to construct a nut, not literally existent version of their past, but something to sort explain the present right all the way to the kinds of mythical histories that people still like to engage in today, ancient aliens. Aliens, and all you know, half the stuff on the history shows on TV. Oh, yeah, inevitably history ends up Melding with myth, and you really don't have to go too far back in history for that to take place for for the historical to become a legendary at least but one thing that makes clear I think is that we have a kind of craving for something that we think of as history that is not always exactly. The same thing is knowing what's actually true about what happened X. number of years ago right right so establishing from the get go that the human of contemplation of history is in itself. kind of a complex thing narrative. Becomes an essential part of it, but also a complicating aspect of it. Yeah, and then there are additional concerns were going to get into now. When we think about history, I mean one of the things about human use of history. Is that We're able to pass information on in a way. That doesn't depend on our genetics, so a big part of it is of course, just recorded history literature about the past but then. There are the artifacts of the past There are the artifacts of the the distant past the the the the relatively recent past artifacts of the present, and all these things find their way into museums. I mean think about what your feeling about ancient Egypt. Could only have read about it, and you never could have seen any of its artifacts, any of its art work never seen images of the pyramids, never seen the the ancient figurines, or the the sarcophagi or anything like that, there would be a necessary texture that would be lacking your understanding of what ancient Egypt was. Yeah, and of course today we have so many tools at our disposal to to say understand ancient to Egypt one thing we just. We have a better understanding than ever before There's still a lot of things we don't know. But we but you know we're at the The bleeding edge of our understanding, right. And and on top of that we have of photography. We have the motion picture. We have a computer imagery. We have a whole host of of inventions that have made it Ba- first of all made it easier for us to understand what agent Egypt was like animated easier for people around the world to get a grasp of it. You know you no longer have to travel to ancient Egypt. As certainly even the Romans did the ancient Romans. Concern in their contemplation of the even more ancient Egyptians in than likewise you don't even have to be able to travel to a museum that has artifacts that have been transported from Egypt. Obviously, you can go to websites. You can go to to books to films etcetera, but the museum is still important. Yeah, that's exactly right and it's important in multiple ways I mean I. I think about the two main ways. It's important number. One of course is just the preservation and display of artifacts to show you what they looked like D- give you the the physical representation, but then I think equally is important. Is the The contextualising literature of museum the? Material, because you know, this is often pointed out by archaeologists and historians that if we only form our picture of a civilization by looking at its physical artifacts, there is a necessary sort of filtering mechanism there. That's time you don't see. All the aspects of the civilization that are prone to that are biodegradable, or that are prone to erosion breaking down over time so I mean th. There's sort of this joke about like you know if you only look at. At the artifacts in you don't read about things or see sort of artists representations of what the other things surrounding these artifacts have been. You could assume that everyone in ancient Egypt Blake walked around in stone close. Yeah, yeah, or the on all the the art though the sculpture in ancient Rome was unpainted, and STOIC and grey I mean it's it's essentially, and this is since the the archaeological in the anthropological are very much like paleontology It's one thing to look at the even the reassembled and The reasonable fossils of prehistoric creature, but then there are all things that did not survive that we have to piece together. To get a full understanding of what this creature was or might have been the the skin across time that can all be represented in the interpretive. Materials of museums, those are I think equally as important as just like having an artifact in preserving it from being destroyed by the elements. Oh Yeah I. Think of the really great museums I've been to, and I've been fortunate enough to get to go to you know a number of them were fortunate enough to live in a city. That has some very nice museums as well. But but there's you know there's a journey you go on. There's there's a story that you involve yourself in when you're when you're in a really good museum or really good exhibit. And I think no part of that, too is appeals to spatial learning for instance free plug for the firm. Bank museum here in Atlanta. they have a section called the George Walk through time and It's something that you know kids that grew up in the Atlanta area. have been going to for a long time and they. They probably end up taking it for granted, but you know there's this spatial journey you do. Walk through time you get to Go through these exhibits. Get kind of a you know a walkthrough of geologic history and. I think that's important. Likewise with with fossils and and reproductions or even a taxidermy, animals, there is something about being in the physical presence of either this creature or representation of this creature that that just gives you a an understanding of it that you don't necessarily get from a book or description or a film, even some sort of You know a virtual reality. Reality Simulation Yeah. That's right, and it's later in the episode. We are going to discuss some of the the potential drawbacks and other considerations to have about museum culture, but there is certainly a thing that is great about museum culture like the the tendency to want to preserve history and explain it right, and to, and also can confusion an emotional connection like I believe it was The Field Museum I believe we were there together because we had work, thing up there, and they had a an exhibit about where they had an artistic recreation of slave ship, and you walk through the hold of it and it's. Just a really emotional experience you're just brings You know I. Remember brought tears to my eyes. You know and it was like that's an example where you know you. You have this positive. Emotional. Manipulation to a certain extent by the by the museum to give you this emotional connection with the topic and I think that's easy to overlook when we think of museums because you can think of them as as just a like a Stewart presentation of artifacts that are perhaps lacking in context or acquire a great deal of reading fine print but I think they could also help you feel the pain and passion of people who have been long dead. Dead Right the Civil Rights Museum here in Atlanta also does a tremendous job through all sorts of multimedia of the being able to like there's one exhibit where you sit at a lunch counter new wear headphones to give you the experience of of me being a protester during the civil rights movement in America and You know it's a little things like that often with with some technological bells and whistles, which if used wisely. Can just really enhance what the museum is able to do. from an educational perspective. That's exactly right and that that's a good point about how you know. Museums today are much more than just. The storage and display of physical artifacts. I mean That's the sort of Classic Museum tradition like you have an object of some kind of significance. It's a work of art or an artifact found through archaeology or something, or you know it's natural history. Maybe it's a mineral or a bone or something like that and that's on display, but yeah, meet. Museums are bigger. Bigger than that now they're. They're in many ways. A sort of just like place you can go to engage with some former other of history right, and it's in or even celebrate it. you know such as when I think of some of our our better science and technology museums. It's like a a space where we're. Science is celebrated and there will be various. Activities going on to aid in that celebration from say a science themed play room for very small children to say a lecture series for. For for older individuals who you know who need something more substantial so I guess the question is. How did human start doing this? Like? When did the museum tradition begin? When did we I? Get the idea that you would that? You would put objects on display or have some kind of a place where you go to interact with educational materials like this right and I think the important thing were kind of skipping over, and all this is that Is, that a museum ideally and in generally the better examples that we tend to focus on are going to be open for everyone, so it's it's not just a matter of oh well. This university has a store room of artifacts or this This institution or this family has some wonderful pieces set aside. You'd love it if you could see it. No Museum is ideally a place that is open to the people, and the and and everyone is allowed to venture in and engage with the materials in. Right, so just the kings of treasure room of like artifacts collected from the you know from the cities he has conquered is not necessarily a museum because that's just his treasurer. Right and you're probably not invited, and it's probably better if you're not invited, right. 'cause it sounds like a dangerous place to venture into. When I started thinking you just sort of casually at first you know about the history museums I started thinking okay well. What are what are some of the museums I've been to? And how old are they and if everyone else does his exercises well I think you'll know that most the museums that come to mind are products of fairly recent history. And, obviously this holds true for the various American museums I visited, and even the British Natural History Museum the product of colonial expansion. It wasn't founded to the nineteenth century. Spinoff from a private collection and in India and we still see that that kind of movement going on to this day. You know you'll have large private collections that are either. Donated to a museum or spun off into a museum of some sort, but the oldest museum in the UK for instance the Royal Armouries in the Tower of London only goes back to fifteen ninety, two with public access emerging in sixteen sixty. Now generally at this point in the podcast. You know we talk about what came before the invention. What was the world leading up to that? Yeah, and I think probably the best exercise here is to is to not to try and think of like a world without museums, but think of the various things in history, bitter sort of like a museum, but not quite. Okay so first of all. We already mentioned like the King's treasurer. Right you know you have conquered many cities in many great lands, and maybe you. You took artifacts that were sacred to them, and then you brought it back to your treasure room and you kept. It locked up for yourself right? Yeah, it's a it's it's. It's certainly kind of like a museum, but not a museum and we should note that many museums. I mean one of the the sort of like counterpoint to the good things about a museum. Is that lots of great museums around the world today do represent a kind of colonial plunder. Plunder yeah, I mean there there are cases. Where is their objects? You know in British museums that are of great historical significance, but that you know were taken from other peoples around the world by colonial invaders from Britain, exactly so the the king's horde of treasures is It's it's not a museum, but at the same time it does have a lot in common I think that's going to be the case with all of these not quite museum examples. We're going to touch on. It's also worth pointing out that you know. It's been long fashionable in in human culture to steal treasures art from defeated adversary. And stuff to blow your mind. We had a couple of episodes about the Ark of the Covenant and of course, the stories of the Ark of the covenant involved. It's It's captured by the Philistines. And later it's captured and possible destruction by the Babylonians and the Philistines were said to have displayed captured arc in their own temple of day on the of course. We don't what extent this you know. There's reality behind this, or if it's just a myth etcetera, but still it. It drives home that like this is. This is the sort of thing. People did. Yeah, they've. They were to crush or defeat an enemy sack. Their cities will, they would take their their treasured back with them right now. Another case from from history that that kind of lines up with a with a lot of the Roman triumphs in which the treasures our wealth into armies of defeated enemies were marched through the city as a spectacle. Along with captives, some to be executed or displayed further so sort of a you know an even more intense example of sort of the more brutal aspects of museum like enterprises seem to recall. There's a scene of this in Titus andronicus. I think like yeah. There's a parade of the enemies, yeah! They defeated some. Tribe or something right in the their their. Famous accounts of that you know, and it's kind of like this awful Roman circus of of Red Rather uncomfortable to contemplate in so we don't want that to be our museums, but then again like the shadow of that is cast over even our modern museums. And of course in the even just in the last century we we've seen museums rated looted or destroy. Do Military action so? You know it's sad. Like continues to be the case when when groups of people go to war with each other treasures, artifacts items of historical recall importance, often targeted. Now the. Rooms full of artifacts are not only created. When say you know a conquering power, colonial power or something goes and takes from one culture and brings back home. People also create rooms full of artifacts from their own culture. I mean a common way you find. This is in tombs, the ancient exactly yeah, I mean unstoppable your mind. Especially we've discussed the tombs of ancient Egypt, the tombs of ancient China in these are these are examples where generally it has to do. Do with some contemplation of the afterlife or the release the idea that if if there is not a world for the ruler to pass into, and presumably take their things, then there is still some continuation of identity in the body is preserved in there for the the items, the wealth, all the material possessions, or some form of them need to be preserved there as well. Yeah, so it's kind of like a museum, but for the most part you were not invited. To enter into. Generally it's it's looked down upon. Yeah, it's not designed to serve in educational purpose, and it doesn't have interpretive materials. These are these are just I'm taking all my loot to the next world. Right and I might put a crossbow trapped in there, just in case you try and enter. Now another we've. We touched a little bit. On, this already s bringing up day gone, but a temple is another example of something that's kind of like a museum, a place where valuable and important artifacts may will be displayed for lots of people, if not everybody, at least for a key demographic to view and admire, and in many cases, the works are instructional in nature, they no means of seeing the form of a god or Goddesses or visually contemplating complex theological concepts like one sees particularly in a Tibetan art. I mean I think about the relics in. The ways that many Catholic basilicas will preserve the remains of sainted person. Yeah, yeah, and then yeah, so we kind of have a dash of the tomb there as well right There's something kind of museum me about that is an object from the past. It's on display for people. Come look at Yeah Yeah. And then there's also the shrine which you know can be something like a tomb and something like temple, but of course they are secular versions of this as well throughout the world I. Mean You go to Washington DC? And you have all the you go to these monuments, these essentially shrines, and these often about celebrating something that is tied to cultural or national heritage, large-scale statues, as well public statues, gently a good example of this as well right now speaking of shrine, this actually brings us to the the word museum itself. So museum derives from the Latin. What is it to motion, which means precisely this shrine to the muses the news is of course where the Greek goddesses of creativity and inspiration Yeah, so so we got a shrine to the muses as the museum, and then that becomes the idea of the Museum I. Guess that Word is coined probably much later to refer to what we think of museums right for instance if we go back to the third century B C, we have the Museum of Alexandria to consider which included the famed library of Alexandria. It was founded by Ptolemy. I soter, and for being WHO's noted for being the traveling companion and Chronicler of Alexander the Great. However, the museum in this case was was not a display of collected art, but a center of learning that ultimately has more in common with a university that we might think of today. In, this was seemingly destroyed in the the late third century see! But yeah, more more like a university, a place of learning a place where learned individuals would gather and celebrate knowledge, so you've got a lot of stuff kind of like this in the ancient world, but nothing that is quite like we think of as a modern museum right? Yeah, I mean you can, you can make a case. Specific museums are museums in general. Reflect these attitudes to this day, but yeah none of these. You can't look at any of these like Oh, well, that was a museum. No, no, it was a treasure hoard. It was really more of a temple so indeed museums are. Would seem to be more of a modern venture right largely rooted in the private wonder rooms or cabinets of curiosities that individuals and families had, and then the more modern museums tend to emerge of these traditions. In fact, you know if you look around for some of the example, the oldest examples of things that are museums you know few that often pop to that often pop up our The the capitoline museums, the oldest public collections, the oldest public section of our in the world This is in Rome dates back to fourteen seventy, one and pope sixty four donation of art to the people of Rome. The Vatican museums have their origin as a public in public display in fifteen o six under Pope Julius Second. But and. We might be tempted to stop there and say oh well. Okay, well there you go this. These are some of the earliest examples but. There is a much older example we're going to get to in this episode. That certainly predates anything that happened with the Catholic Church. Yeah, and this one also I guess is a matter of interpretation because what you define as museum is going to be a matter of interpretation, but this is going to be the earliest known museum, according to Great British archaeologist Charles Leonard Woolley. So, we don't know for sure win. The first museum was created but I think there's a really reasonable chance that the earliest museum we know about was actually the first one in history so let's journey ancient Mesopotamia Oh. Yes, let's do art, so we're going to go to the city of or. Or was once one of the great power centers of Ancient Mesopotamia. and if you see photos of the sand covered ruins of the city in this partially restored Great Ziggurat today, it might be hard to imagine that this was once like a really thriving lush fertile settlement in the ancient world today it's situated in the desert of southern Iraq about sixteen kilometers, or about ten miles from the Euphrates River and and this is a rough measurement that calculated through Google maps. It's about two hundred and fifty kilometers, or about one hundred and fifty miles. From the coast of the Persian Gulf and I've read in some sources that in ancient times or was considered more like a coastal city that I guess the Persian Gulf stretched farther up in into where you would now have southern Mesopotamia now, but in ancient times the Euphrates river it took a different course, and it ran much closer to the city, making it this. This lush fertile place that was was a great place for a city, and it's a place considered the scale of history because archaeologists believe that it was founded. Founded sometime in the fourth Millennium B, C, e so that going to be many thousands of years old us in the early dynastic period of the ancient Sumerian kings, or became the capital of southern Mesopotamia, and this would have been around the fifth century BC so to do a history exercise. We've son sometimes done stuff to blow your mind before just reminding you like how much time elapsed through the part of the world history that we think of is ancient imagine you're Julius Caesar in your living in the first century B C e? To you as Julius Caesar, the Old Kingdom of Egypt, which was like two, thousand, five, hundred to twenty, one hundred BC and the ancient dynasties of Mesopotamia, which would have been roughly the same time those time periods were more ancient to you as Julius Caesar in the Roman Republic than the Roman Empire is to us, while ancient Rome is significantly more recent to us than those ancient civilizations were to the ancient Romans more time pass between Sargon of Cod, and Julius, Caesar, then between Julius, Caesar and US. That's the scale of the history of civilization. And when you think about all that time, all the relics, and remains all those thousands of years coming and going it, it's hard not to realize that the people who are ancient from our point of view, also had to contend with history and the idea of its memory, its preservation and its destruction, and so sometimes history, and even nostalgia can kind of feel like recently invented concept's. They're absolutely not and great. Example is a neo Babylonian king who lived in the city of so this is a man named Nab Anita's. Who was the last real king of Babylon for the city of Moore declined in power in the. The late sixth century BC in was subsequently abandoned over the following decades so Benito's seemed to have a great sense of historical consciousness. He wanted to revive elements of past civilizations from Mesopotamia. One of the things we were reading for. This episode is an article by a professor of languages and literature of Ancient Israel from Macquarie University named Louise's Pryke and one thing that she pointed out. Is that the the saints you king now Benitez is often referred to as sort of like ancient archaeologist king. You sort of like you know one of the first star Kiala. It's sort of an ancient Indiana Jones type here. With sort of except he's a king, so he's got all this power to command with the belongs in a museum mentality. Yes, so Yeah, so so this ancient sort of archaeologist king Apparently he conducted excavations to retrieve lost written records from past civilizations of the area it later in life he attempted to restore the ruins of the Great Sumerian Ziggurat of you're that had decayed significantly by his time. You may have seen representations. Their pictures of the CIGARROA in in what we're seeing is a restoration of NAB Anita says restoration of the Ziggurat, so it's been through several. It's got a few different coats of paint on it. And that alone brings up the question of You know the authenticity with artifacts. Like which one is the real Ziggurat I mean they're all the real Ziggurat, but but but then you know. We have to take into account like how much time has passed to, and then to what extent does that get in our way of understanding the past? Yeah, yeah, it's a weird question. to to think about if something was restored in the ancient world after having decayed for hundreds of years. Is that just as original to us? Basically I mean. I don't know it's it makes you question the concept of what an original artifact is. What is archaeological authenticity? And maybe it's some degree. to some degree undermines the concept of originality which might be a good thing and we'll talk about that later again, But yeah, so he attempted to restore the ruins of the Great Sumerian Ziggurat. If you're he and he was also, he was religious revivalist, bringing back coal traditions that had long fallen by the wayside, specifically, he revived the cult of the Moon God seen also known, and that's spelled like sin like s i. n Brown seen. Also, known to the ancient Sumerians as the God Nana now the city of or has a lot of cool stuff about it over over these you know thousands of years, but one of them is that it has some of the most awesome high priestesses in history. I know she's come up on stuff to blow your mind before, but one of my favorite ancient Mesopotamia figures is the earliest known named author of a work of poetry, so not necessarily the first poet ever, but the first poet in history whose name is recorded and known to us and this. This is the ancient Sumerian poet, princess and high priestess in head to WanNa Oh yes, yeah, in head-on lived in or long before Neb Anita she lived in. You're when it was an ancient Sumerian city stayed in the twenty third century, B C e under the rule of her father, Sargon of cod and in hidden WANNA was appointed by Sargon as the high priestess of the goddess in China and the Moon God Nana I. Know that might become a confusing the goddess in Nana and the Moon God is just Nana and then of course later became seen. So technically her title is in e, N, which is a position of religious and political significance, she refers to herself as the radiant in of Nana and one of her great works of poetry known to us is known to us. Today's the Exaltation of Nana, the Goddess which is amazing poem to look up. You should especially look a Trans Translation of the Exaltation of in Ana. If you're ever trying to like work, a real sense of defiance and righteous anger. Best stuff, Robert Wood. You indulge me to read a few lines a certainly okay. From the exultation of Nana. This is from the translation and the James, purchase tradition and nineteen seventy five. You have filled this land with venom like dragon vegetation ceases when you thunder like Ishbel Moore you bring down the flood from the mountain supreme one who are the Anonima of Heaven, and Earth, who reigned flaming fire over the land, who have been given the me by on Queen, who rides the beast okay. I got a one from later. My Queen all the unknown. Ah, the great gods fled before you like fluttering. Bats could not stand before you're awesome. Face could not approach. You're awesome for head. Who can soothe your angry heart? These hymns are amazing, and they are definitely worth looking up, so you've got in head one. She's this fireball-hurling poet the High Priestess of the Moon God Nana in or in the twenty third century BC, and then a little less than two millennia later. You've got this neo Babylonian King Nab Anita's ruling over you're looking back into the past, and in looking back into the past one thing he decides to do is revive the worship of the Moon God Nana, who they now. Now called scene and like Sargon Nab. Anita's appoints his daughter, the priestess of the Moon God consulting ancient records to get details about what this moon priestess role would be like what the the duties would be what the rituals would be This is the point that that Pryke makes in her article. Is this like looking back into the records? For what the priestesses role would be because he he's you know in a way? He's sort of trying to be the next Sargon. So who is the priestess? The daughter of NAB Anita's? who gets this role while her name is INA Goldie Nano also known as Belshaw. And unfortunately we know far too little about who a Goldie Nana was, but we do know that. In addition to a religious role inequality, Nana is recorded as having been the administrator of a school for young priestesses but so inequality Nana was more than just an educator. She was more than just princess more than just a high priestess of the moon. It's here that we come to the first museum known history, because it appears that a Goldie Nano was its curator, and this is This is fascinating to behold because we have not only you know. The the case for the museum, but for a strong case for you know why it was created what purpose it served the ruler of the day. Yeah, exactly so maybe we should take a break, and then we come back. We can have a look at this museum. This episode is brought to you by IBM Today. The world looks pretty different, but all ready new problems are being with new thinking. Researchers are using supercomputers to discover treatments faster. Retailers are turning to the cloud to restock shelves more quickly. Teachers are working with ai to rethink the classroom. It's not everything, but it's a start. Let's put smart to work. See how IBM is helping at IBM dot com slash comedy nineteen that when Lexus opened stores, one of the first dealers made an important observation. Lexus wasn't in the car business. They were in the people, business. Above all they needed to be helpful, respectful and compassionate. To treat people like guests. It's what they agreed to do from the start. And rededicate themselves to every take. Today how we all interact with each other is changing, but who we are isn't in a time of uncertainty. We are all looking for new ways to be human to connect to reach out. To respond. Now when we need each other, most lexus will continue to do what they've always done. Take care of people first then the rest will follow. visit. LEXUS DOT com slash people I to find out what Lexus is doing for their guest, their employees and for our communities. Are Back we're discussing the history of the museum as we know and understand today, and we're looking at what may well be the earliest example of something that we can reasonably call a museum. Yeah, and so we should look again at what would be the criteria that right. How would we know if we'd found the first museum in History because as we've discussed before just having a treasure room. Next isn't really museum writing so museum as understood, today has two main parts right. He's got preservation and interpretation. You've got objects or artifacts that are preserved and kept on display. This preservation aspect, and those objects are explained in contextualized by educational interpretation materials. You know like the little written placards you find next to objects at a museum exhibit today, and I think it's also important that it must be cleared that this institution has some sort of public educational purpose, right? It can't just be like a private thing this just for you, right? It's about it's about sharing this information with the world and we see that in our. Our best examples of museums. Say like a really good science and Technology Museum is about. Sharing the the passing on the torch of of of of scientific inquiry, and and celebrating what it can do, for human civilization, and then on the other hand you have say Hey creationist museum, which takes a different approach but he's ultimately trying to do the same thing right it is it is it is using? Artifacts were supposed artifacts. I mean sometimes choosing actual the. Remnants of the past, but then using it to push in a different narrative I guess that's true, like even if we judge the educational purpose of a museum to be misguided and leading to incorrect conclusions I. Mean I guess still if the goal of it is, is educational, according to the people who made it. Even if that education is, you know, maybe look, make making your king look good or something right? You could consider that a form of a museum right I mean, and certainly even are better. Museums have had to evolve with the Times right to had to change the way that they present particularly things from a cultural even historical standpoint to. To either keep up with with changing norms to correct past. Errors and then you know, and also to to take into account new information about the the the cultures and time periods that are presented well. Yeah, that's exactly right. I mean one great thing about modern museums is. They can often be away. to see into other cultures that you might not encounter firsthand, but you know a lot of these exhibits. The museum has been around a long time. They may have initially been established for the kind of condescending colonialist attitude or That sort of shows other cultures in a way that might not be accurate. Maybe that looks down on them. That doesn't regard them as equally valid cultures. Right I mean I. It's important to note that like the the the basic idea, the museum. You know it can be skewed for different purposes, I mean there's a difference between the new museum in Philadelphia and say a you know a circus sideshow you know just like a display of preserved human remains with either no contact or faulty context regarding what those jars contain. There's a difference between an actual museum about say human evolution and the bigfoot museum that we have in north Georgia. which is a wonderful museum but it? It has a definite agenda different narrative that it's pushing, and hopefully a lot of people that go there are engaging with sort of tongue in cheek, or people are able to suspend disbelief enjoyable, but but yeah, it's it's a slightly different extra exercise or any roadside attraction from decades past where where something may be on display. That is You know, maybe you. You know lacking in terms of its scientific or historical believability. Right so I. Guess I'm going to try to say is. We can often think of a museum as a medium as opposed to like message right? Okay so to get back to INA Goldie. Nana throughout the Nineteen Twenties Thirties. There was a British archaeologist named Sir Charles. Leonard Woolley who worked on. On the excavation of the ancient city, of Moore and in nineteen twenty, five Willie and his colleagues were excavating a Babylonian Palace within the ancient city, and they began to uncover a very strange clustering of artifacts within this palace were artifacts from different geographical locations in different periods of ancient history, all neatly arranged together in this one building, and it appears that this collection was created. Created sometime around the year five thirty B C, E and now the earliest artifacts found, went back almost to the time of Sargon and in head, WanNa they went back about twenty, one hundred BC, e and again I was trying to find a point of comparison for historical scale, so if these people living in the sixth century BC had artifacts from twenty one hundred, BC. Like us today, having artifacts from the personal effects of Attila the Hun who invading the western Roman Empire in the middle of the fifth century CE. That's the the approximate time difference us. What was among this collection of things? Willy discovered here in this in this ancient site. One thing was the partially restored remains of a statue of the Great King Shoghi of Moore, who ruled in the first century BC and you might remember Shoghi came up in are upset about walls, actually because Shoghi is credited with creating one of the first known defensive boundary walls in history, the wall he built was known as the wall of the land or the emirate wall, or the keeper at Bay of the nomads is a little on the nose. it. It was it was designed to defend Sumer against tax from no nomadic called the rights who lived to the north of them, and she'll wall is thought to have been more than one hundred miles long stretching between the Tigris and the Euphrates River and in this this other episode. I quoted from an ancient Sumerian home, which mentioned it by recalling with Nostalgia Jay. How quote, the wall of Inaugu extended out over the desert like a bird net. Comparing it to this thing, they used to actually catch birds, and so in this poem, the Speaker is lamenting how you know. There were better days back when their civilization had been more powerful and more glorious, and it was the time of Shoghi in this wall. Bit in reality, of course, these walls did not accomplish the goal of protecting soumare, which fell to invasions from the emerites the MITES. It was not an effective strategy and And in his own autobiographical writings on the excavation of you're Charles Leonard. Woolley notes something interesting about the statue of Shoghi, so he describes it quote as a fragment of Dea, right statue, a bit of the arm of a human figure, on which was an inscription, and the fragment had been carefully trimmed so as to make it look neat and preserve the writing. So there appears to be evidence here of an ancient preservation work to keep the carvings on the statue from being damaged to keep them legible. also among the things found here was an ancient cast site boundary stone, a type of artifact known as a Khuda ru now Kuta ru or stone boundary markers used in ancient Mesopotamia and these things are pretty cool. It's kind of like if you could have a stone pillar with a written copy of the DVD, or House, noting how you got the land, and which notaries witnessed the sale of the property, and also possibly containing carvings of gods, celestial objects and monsters and definitely curses. Full of curses, the cooter in in Goldie non as museum, is from around fourteen hundred BC. Willie noted that it contained an awesome curse against anybody who displaced her destroyed the stone. So what are these curses like right? I was looking at an example of a Kuru excavated from. Tell Abu Haba so it's not the same couture, but it's curse warning. tells about what you cannot do or face the curse. So it, says win so ever in days to come among future men, an agent or a governor, or a ruler or anyone, or the son of anyone at all who shall rise up, and in respective that field shell make a claim or cause a claim to be made, or she'll say this field was not presented, or she'll change that stone from its place or show cast it into the water, or into the fire, or shall break it with stone, or because of these curses shall fear, and she'll cause a fool or a deaf man or a blind man to take it up, and said it in a place where it cannot be seen. Seen that man shall take away the field may on new the father of the gods curse him as a foe. This covers so much I'm about to get into exactly what the curse is and the second, but I love this. It's like okay. You cannot erase the record of WHO owns this field. You can't throw it in the water. He can't throw it in the fire. You can't get a blind person who can't read these mornings to pick it up for you and do it for you now. One wonders if they were say this, was simply you. They were just thinking of potential loopholes or had been a loophole that was employed right. There was there was a blind individual who often employed to muck around with people's property rights. Right? Okay, so here's what happens. If you violate this this boundary marker you, you try to move it or something Here's a little bit of the cursed play The the first line has some illusions, so it's it's mad. The Lord of the crops. been worn off, but after that it gets going may never gall in his destruction, not spare. His offspring may shoot a Muna and shoe. Maleeha pronounce evil against him male, the Gods whose names are mentioned on the stone, curse him with a curse that cannot be loosened. May they command that he not live a single day may not let him, nor his name, nor his seed endure days of drought years of famine. May they assign for his lot before God King Lord and Prince May his whining tenuous, and may he come to an evil end? That's a pretty stiff curse. Yeah, okay May as whining. Be Continuous so to. To quote from Charles Leonard, Willy's own account of the other objects they discovered apart from these two just explained a quote, then came a clay foundation cone of Lorsa king about seventeen hundred, BC, then a few clay tablets of about the same date, and a large votive stonemasons head, which was Unin inscribed, but may well have been more ancient by five hundred years. What rethink here were half a dozen diverse objects found lying on an unbroken brick pavement of the sixth century BC yet. The newest was seven hundred years older than the pavement, and the earliest, perhaps sixteen hundred, and a woolly writes that the evidence made it pretty clear. That it was impossible that all these different artifacts would have ended up arranged together like this by accident. And he notes again the trimming of the inscription on the Shoghi statue, which seems like a deliberate act of preservation. And then finally came the answer of what what they were looking for. A woolly writes quote. Then we found the key a little way apart last small drum shaped clay object, which were four columns of writing the first three columns were in the old Sumerian language, and the contents of one at least were familiar to us, for we had founded on bricks of bore sin, King of or in two two zero BC, and the other two were fairly similar. The fourth column was in late Semitic speech. These it said are copies of bricks found in the remains. Remains of you're the work of bore seen King of you're which, while searching for the ground plan of the Temple of the governor of or found, and I saw an road out for the marvel of the holders and Willy notes that the scribe who wrote this inscription overestimated the accuracy of the copies of these bricks, but nevertheless willie recognize the significance of this find quote. The Room was a museum of local antiquities maintained by the Princess Belle Shelton, and our which remember is another name for inequality Nana who took after her father a keen Kiala? And in the collection was this clay drum? The earliest museum label known drawn up one hundred years before, and kept presumably together with the original bricks as a record of the first scientific excavations, at Moore, that's incredible to to just you know, imagine these truly ancient people you know someone walking into this room, seeing a curious old object, and then potentially reading an inscription to see what it was now it factors into their own history. Yeah, yeah, it's amazing and the fact I think it's interesting that they've got. They've got copies also notes about copies of things which would be like the way that many museums today have not necessarily earn original artifact, but a reproduction or say cast of a fossil that might be the original thing the of course you know the funny irony is that many fossils are not even the original bones. Essentially geologic castings created by you know without the aid of human intervention. Yeah, and and I think that's an interesting thing. You know that we feel like we need to make this distinction. Of course it's like well. You could have the real thing here. You can have a reproduction of it, and somehow there's this sense among many people I think and I I admit that I sometimes feel this probably shouldn't, but I feel like the reproduction is not as good. Wouldn't it be better if the real original thing were there and I? I WanNa break myself this thinking by the end of the episode. Yeah. 'cause I found myself caught myself thinking a similar thing about restored works before you know like if you see. You know pictures of what the Sistine Chapel looked like before and after restoration one might be tempted to say well, it was. It looked better before they restored it. which is kind of a silly thing to to to think or to say Attached to like the sort of the historical wear and tear on a thing. We get attracted to you know to the ruins, and then we have at least mixed feelings about restoration efforts I. Mean we've we've talked about before. believably about the Parthenon the Parthenon is a great example of this, because with the original Parthenon, you have various waves of destruction. addition and then considered reconstruction and their voices on different sides. You know should, we should restore the actual parthenon to its former glory. And then if we do restored to a former glory, which former glory! And then likewise we have the Parthenon, in Nashville Tennessee, which is a restoration in a model, essentially a scale model of the Parthenon. The you could walk into and and look around. I think that's the right model. I don't I don't think they need to go messing around with the ruins of the Parthenon, but I like the idea of just like building other. Parthenon's elsewhere right but. But then also, there's simply the the effort in preserving your because all, so you don't want to say if you have say the ruined remains of some some old building that is important, you also don't want it to continue to erode, or should you be open for the to continue to erode? I mean it's it's a tough western. Yeah, yeah, and there's a we were. Were talking about this before we came in on the episode, but you know I think in a way there's almost kind of a a tacit belief in sympathetic magic that makes us like the idea of the original artifact whatever it was. We like the idea that like you know. The actual artist touched this yeah, or the actual person in history war, this and a reproduction feels. Feels less powerful to us because we buy into some strange form of sympathetic magic, where it just doesn't have that magic spark if it wasn't the real thing from the time that somebody actually touched yogi WANNA. Touch it sometimes you, WanNa Lick it and and you're not allowed to, but there's no reason that you have a lot of the besuited individuals standing around ready to. Start pointing a little too close to a particular work of art or posing for yourself, just a little bit too close to it because we we do want to interact with you know we don't always. We WanNA stand in its presence, but yeah, we also kind of want to actually physically make. With it, yeah, so concerning in a golden on as Museum of course as we know, we've been talking about, this would not be the only place where powerful people in the ancient world had collected relics of days past you know many kings of the ancient world would have understood old relics and artifacts to be a sort of John, Rav. Treasured collected display your wealth and power, but what makes these artifacts in in a golden on as museum really seem like exhibits in the museum is is what Willie notes that they were accompanied by carvings that bore interpretive data explanations of what you were looking at, and the fact that it was associated with INA Goldie. Nana School for Young priestesses. That, this building was a museum that was likely created with an educational purpose. The students who'd go in and look at this stuff and read about what it was. Yeah, and say like this is our history. This is our heritage. Look at these objects and learn just another passage I came across. There's another book where Willie discussed in a golden on his museum and commented quote that there should be collection altogether in accordance with the antiquarian piety of the age, and especially of the ruler Nab Anita's who, with whose daughter this building is probably to be associated so he's he's saying that in this age in ancient Mesopotamia the in the city of or and this would go along with everything we know about NAB Anita's trying to restore the Ziggurat and doing archaeological excavations, and all this that there was this spirit of nostalgia. You know that they were sort of unusually obsessed with the past for for people of their time in place and I wonder what what triggers that you know what causes a civilisation to suddenly take intense interest in preserving in reconstructing the past like Nab Anita send inequality Nana why I wonder if a lot of does come down to sort of like a spatial understanding of things, a need to be in the environment of the past. You know to fully comprehend it on on almost animal level. I mean part a one thing I think that's attempting. Historical interpretation is that we know that the dynasty that created the museum wouldn't last leg as I mentioned so. This museum was created around the year five thirty B. C E and the city of you're went into decline after the reign of NAB Anita's and was abandoned. Almost completely you know sometime in the following decades or centuries this is probably because of local climate change where the you frady's river The bed shifted and moved farther away from the city, and that combined with drought to basically turn this once. Fertile Power Center? Center into this abandoned desert, ghosts city, and so it's tempting I. Think for us to look at that and say Oh, you know. This was the end of a long civilization in this area Maybe maybe they since they were at the end, and this is what made them. You know so nostalgic for the past and WANNA create this first museum by this greatest hits album right, but I you know I don't know if that really makes sense because I don't know if they thought they were living toward the end of their dynasty. You know that's right. I mean I'm a museum doesn't? We can easily fall into the line of thinking that a museum of his place of dead things a things you know things. That are no longer around. That are important only historically, but we have plenty of museums today that are about you know celebrating things that are alive so rating movements that are still happening in are still unfinished. We of works of art that you know. We talked about this stuff to blame you. Blow your mind that are that are have been left unfinished either. Through the accident, accidents of human life or intentionally to make some statement about about the nature of human progress. So I think it's. It's reasonable to think that some of those elements would very much have been in play in ancient times. You know to to realize that like the I mean because we talked about it. Being uses an educational space, so it would have been you know not. Have, a would have had a spirit of. Of Renewal to it I would imagine an educational place in place of religious significance, so was part of a school. It was part of a golden on as school for priestesses right so yea, it makes you wonder about the interplay of the religious impulse, also with the desire to preserve and display elements of history. Yeah, all right well on that note. We're GONNA. Take a quick break. And when we come back, we will discuss the legacy of the museum and in some of the some current ideas about where we stand in regards to the museum. This episode is brought to you by IBM Today the world looks pretty different, but already new problems are being met with new thinking. Researchers are using supercomputers to discover treatments faster. Retailers are turning to the cloud to restock shelves more quickly. Teachers are working with a I to rethink the classroom. It's not everything, but it's a start. Let's put smart to work. See how IBM is helping at IBM dot com slash covid nineteen. iheartradio and state farm know that the graduation stages the first of many and while grads may not be walking across one this year. They can get the send off. They've always dreamed of with our new podcast commencement, featuring inspiring speeches from the biggest names like John Legend. I'm honored to have the chance to speak to to share in this special moment Katie couric. You'll need some very important life skills to move forward. Perhaps the most important one is resilience. Chelsea handler to do things that scare you if you can embrace the unknown. Unknown fully jump into what life has to offer you. There will be much to celebrate and much to enjoy and cash reflect on the work you've done and celebrate moving into your new face. These iconic names all coming together to celebrate you. The class of twenty twenty listened iheartradio's new podcast commencement brought to you by state farm speech drop may fifteenth on the iheartradio APP or wherever you get your podcasts and remember state farm will be there for this stage and every stage after like a good neighbor. State farm is there. Are Your back so one thing we sort of mentioned earlier is that. I love museums. I'm a big fan of natural history museums and cultural history museums, and the they can do a really wonderful thing but also you know the there are a lot of drawbacks to museums. especially some you know how museums used to be, I think a lot of museums are doing a lot of work in recent years to try to like disentangle the nature of their educational exhibits from say colonial legacies and stuff. Stuff like that right into. Do do what needs to be done to honor. Say you know living thriving cultures that their artifacts represent. Yeah, so they're important questions to ask about what museums represent today in how you know what role they play for us culturally, and maybe how they could be made better. Yeah, and it a lot of it comes down to questions of ownership, not only who owns a particular item you know. Does this piece of this is painting belong to a certain family, or does it belong to this museum now? Does it belong to the nation in which the museum? Is housed like he goes beyond that it gets into considerations like who owns the past and who owns the story of the past. so we were looking at a an excellent D. magazine essay on the subject titled Who Really Owns The past by American archaeologist. Michael Press and I I. Recommend Everyone. Check this out, but some of the the key points that Michael makes are really. Worth thinking about here, he points out that are currently thinking about heritage begin to take shape in the nineteenth century, both in the West, and in the Middle East We Westerners were pretty quick to disregard local emerging laws, concerning artifacts you know considering them an attempt by wrote local rulers to Lord over the dead and interfere with what they seem. To, see as this sort of natural migration of artifacts to Europe, this interpretation of. On one side of the locals might be saying well. We need some laws in place to keep these artifacts from wandering outside of our borders, and then the colonial impulse was more. Oh, no, these belong to the world where so this is everybody's heritage for the world happens to be in London the world's back in London. We're going to take right back there and also antique laws as we know them today. It really emerged out of the Post. World War. Two periods so international agreements such as the nineteen fifty four. Hey, convention and the nineteen, Seventy nine hundred seventy two UNESCO conventions. It all placed a new emphasis on national sovereignty in our national heritage, but still the question remains who owns the artifacts of the past in who owns the story of the past. Because again you can think of the museum as a medium for a story. You know there's in we. We often forget this when we really place a lot of trust in say. The met or the Natural History Museum. You know I think generally trust these institutions for good reason. To present the best interpretation of the history or the science or the or the artistry that is on display. And we see again. Various museums make an effort to change their displays to honor an evolving understanding of the past or to honor living cultures. They depict etcetera. But press points out that when nations and nationwide nation states themselves only artifacts own the past. They can use these treasures to push a nationalistic agenda. So Michael Press writes quote. Governments increasingly looked to remains of the distant past to bolster national identities and a sense of greatness, or to marginalize disfavored groups Saddam Hussein used the ruins of Babylon to spread ideas of Iraq's greatness as well as his own, even portraying himself as a modern nebuchadnezzar, China's leadership has used archaeology project national greatness onto the distance semi-legendary past today. India's prime minister. Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government has worked use archaeology to prove that modern Hindus. Hindus can trace their descent from the earliest inhabitants of India. So you put this sort of thing in place, and you know you, he says you actually invite looting. You actually invite that damage. Because history is made to serve the engines of nationalism, or or have you, alluding becomes a potential active resistance and we've actually seen this. He points out. In example one example would be the destruction of monuments in Syria and Iraq by ISIS. And then on the other side of the equation, you know the whole colonial movement was steeped in arguments that these were items of global heritage, and and this is used to justify removing artifacts from native Lance. Yes, so I mean I. I like the idea that there are things that are the common heritage of humankind for history. But what does that actually mean in practice Ryan you say okay in. In practice, it's the common heritage of humankind's let means we'll take it somewhere in Europe, or the United States right because yes, when you, when you look at the the movements of culture when you look at the even the early migrations of human beings, you can make a case to say well the artifacts of the part of my culture as well. They're part of my heritage as well but. It's another thing to say that means that they need to be relocated to to your city. You know your country or that you know your nation has can lay claim to it, but then again is points out in this article. It gets. This is still a very complicated scenario you bring in. You know the fact that you have you know in our day and age you have people from various nations that are spread over the world, and and so it's not always as simple as this cultural group stole this cultural groups belongings. Though sometimes it is well. Yeah, I mean it's weird because it's hard to say who owns the past, but then again something definitely feels wrong. About just say colonial power taking artifacts from one country, and then taking them back to the homeboy -absolutely. Another side of the city points out that I hadn't really thought about is that in some cases you have designated UNESCO World Heritage sites that you know these are places where the it is a place of of and very important historical significance the needs to be preserved, but then also ends up being kind of thing. People want to visit, and that can actually impact local communities, forcing the removal of people, either to you know to to allow the study of this location, or to make way for development associated with the sites new historical significance, so yeah and And then you throw various other. Political factors into the mix, and it gets even more complicated points out that in the case of Syria multiple parties have used heritage as a weapon of war, obviously Isis but also. Brings up Russia and even the United States using Celebrations of of archaeological materials as being sort of part of the overall messaging associated with whatever side of the political scenario the player happens to be on. He does drive home that it is. It's messy. All these different factors playing into the. Past and these artifacts of the past, but he points out that cultural heritage experts proposed several ideas for a better future of museums, so just to to run through them really quickly. the three main points are number one give more control to local communities, not national interests, the sort of on the ground with people rather than with national governments right the second one is to reduce the importance of the original which we talked about a little earlier. This this one is a tricky one to to think about and one of the reasons is that he points out that you know in There's this high western priority placed on the original item, the original work of art original carvings et Cetera, but he says we you know we have long seen a different approach in eastern cultures, which were more about just you know preserving and recreating the thing itself the work itself like it was more about the the message in the work. But it, but it it. It is someone who loves museums. You know it is hard to get past that. There is something really awesome about standing in the presence of the actual work or the you know? The actual remains that have been transported here but then when you take into account all these other factors we've been discussing you do have to ask yourself well. Would it really make it? You know any less impressive if it was just a really a fantastic recreation of a particular work or a particular carving I. Mean certainly when you get into sculptures, it's a it's a lot easier guy. I can easily see that being the case like do I. Really need the actual. Let's say it's The statue of David Do I need that transported over here to look at or what if it was just a? A perfect copy I think I would be happy with that and if I'm happy with that wouldn't that apply to various other museum artifacts as well especially, if the context is really good, if the narrative is really good, yeah, I mean I. think that is something that you know people who are the audiences for museums should try to adapt themselves to be more. More satisfied with high quality re-creations and you know casts, and you know it. All kinds of things don't necessarily involve having the physical original there yeah, especially now when you can have all this additional information, you can have pictures of the original videos of the original additional technological interactions with with media about the original piece, but then you also have this physical. Recreation you can enjoy as well. Yeah exactly Oh. The third point that he makes though is that we should rethink the idea of heritage as property at all that we should have something along the lines of access heritage again in a very interesting, but also. Challenging Way to think about it. Like forces us to turn some of our experiences with museums on their head. But but I could. I could see that working though. Because certainly some of the the trickier parts of all of this is just the treating heritage as something that is, that is property and their property rights tied up with it and say a museum just cannot return particular artifact to the the the culture it came from because of some sort of a property issue. Oh, I hadn't even thought about that, but yes I guess sometimes things are probably on loan to museums from people who supposedly own them right, but like. Why does that person own them? It might be because you know somebody way down the line stole it and then left Yahoo. Them gave it to you know yeah, or they just acquired it, if not through like like outright obvious. Military or colonial treachery than perhaps through. Economic pressures that would not have been there. Had it not been for the colonial influence to begin with? Yeah, this is a difficult issue. The definitely worth giving thought to especially if you're a person who frequents museum and really we only, we only scratched the surface here. On this issue because they're also additional layers to consider with. With the archaeological artifacts such as What Lynn Mesko calls negative heritage. What do you do about a an? Historical artifact that's tied up with. You know a lot of negative aspects of society you know. Maybe it's tied to say you know. Racist ideologies are something. What do you do with those artifacts? How do you treat them? I think one possible answer there is that you you have you make sure that the context of the museum that is presenting them is taking all that into account. But anyway as as as Michael Dry something like this is still another complicated area whom we We try to to got exactly where the museum is headed in the future. All Right? No, we're going to close this one out, but obviously we'd love to hear from everybody we know y'all have favorite museums. You would like to mention on the two to. Perhaps we've been to them as well or maybe you'll point out some new smaller museum that we've never even heard of it and we'll be able to put that on our radar for a future travels. As always if you want to support the show, the best thing you can do is rate and review us. Wherever you have the power to do, so make sure you have subscribed to invention as well and this. Tell your friends about it the next time somebody's asking around. Hey, what are some good podcast? Listen to throw her name into the mix. Ultimately it's that it's that word of mouth that really makes all the difference huge. Thanks as always to are excellent audio, producer, Tory Harrison and our guest producer today Maya Coal. If you'd like to get in touch with us with feedback on this episode or any other suggested topic for the future to let us know about your favorite museum, or just to say hi, you can email us that contact at invention pod dot com. Invention is production of iheartradio for more podcasts from my heart. Radio is iheartradio APP apple, podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows. Classic Twenty Twenty. We know things have been kind of out of the ordinary lately. You're not going to get a graduation ceremony. So iheartradio found some people to write commencement speeches just for John Legend. He's Hillary. Clinton then to over twenty of your favorites from Dj. College to coach K. Abby Wambach to halls listen to iheartradio new podcast commencement speeches dropped may fifteenth, iheartradio and Sunday may seventeenth across all IHEART radio stations. Draw to you buy Doritos taking the class of twenty twenty Valedictorians to another.

Coming up next