About a month ago, I was scrolling through Instagram, when I came across a post from The Field Museum. The post was about the new Ancient Mediterranean Exhibit at the Museum and how social media bloggers, tweeters, and ‘grammars were invited to apply for a (free!!) special invite to an after hours event at the museum. On a whim, I applied. A few weeks later, I got the confirmation email that I was accepted and I was SUPER PUMPED!
I have always loved all of the museums here in Chicago. I’d travel into the city with family to see the exhibits and art. I’ve always loved the big architecture of the city, but especially what you can find at the Field Museum. Did you know that the Field Museum was originally built as the Palace of Fine Arts for the 1893 World’s Colombian Exposition?!? Isn’t that SO COOL????? AHH!
Anyway, the event itself took place AFTER THE MUSEUM CLOSED for the day.
I got to see Sue UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL without sticky fingers of children poking me, or trying to dodge selfie sticks! (lol) This little experience alone was amazing–and I hadn’t even seen the exhibit yet!
Before we went into the exhibit, we got to hear a talk given by one of the Anthropologists that works for the Museum. (If you follow me on Instagram, you can see one of my highlighted stories that has pictures from this talk!)
One of the things the Anthropologist said during the talk was, “I study these artifacts and things, because I want to be able to tell stories about people.” (or something like that!)
I thought that was the absolute coolest thing to hear. Honestly, I wasn’t super *pumped* about looking at a bunch of old stuff, but the talk before really inspired me? And I wasn’t expecting it to! Before I even walked in, I realized that this exhibit was not like an art exhibit at the Art Museum on Michigan Ave. These objects on display were not only beautiful, but they told stories about the people who once owned them. They were telling stories of collisions of cultures and people.
Something that seems all the more relevant and important to us right now.
The main narrative of the exhibit was that when people move, objects move with them, and new ideas accompany those objects and people. All of these things are malleable and integrate themselves into different cultures and are adapted into different things by new people.
There were many sections designated by signs like the following, that explained what was on display and for what reasons. (So! Helpful!)
One thing that I absolutely LOVED about the exhibit is how interactive it is! There was a place to virtually try on the ancient jewelry on display, another area had a touch screen that took you through ordering and Ancient Mediterranean dinner (Giraffe leg bones were once found in what was an an ancient Tavern!! Archeology is pretty DOPE wow.), as well as an Etruscan mirror replica for you to see and a musical instrument to shake around.
A lot of the time it feels taboo to touch things in museums, but those pieces that call for interaction from the viewers end up being my favorite pieces (Y’all should google Félix Gonzáles-Torres REAL QUICK!).
I think the most important aspect of this entire exhibit is the fact that nothing was sugar coated, or seen through rosy glasses. There were hard and horrible reasons that people moved into new cultures. Reasons like war and slavery.
This particular image stuck with me. It shows the body of a slave that died in Pompeii after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The shackles on their legs literally gives me goosebumps in the worst kind of way.
Near the end of the exhibit was a really interesting little collection of items that represent some early textiles and clothing that hold Christian symbols. This is particularly interesting, considering that the four cultures that were focused on for this exhibit were all Polytheistic (having multiple Gods) and somehow, there was a melding of ideas that resulted in Monotheism. (People are so weird and complicated wow)
Now, the I didn’t take a lot of pictures of the very end of the exhibit, because y’all just have to go and see it for yourself. There’s a really spectacular piece of art that represents the many ways that complete strangers overlap in similarities and it’s big and beautiful and just go see it and feel a little small for a second okay?
However, there was one part of the final section that literally made me cry. The end of the exhibit held what I’m going to call “Modern Relics”, or things that eventually will represent our society and cultures. Things like an iphone, a yoga mat, and this.
A child’s life vest. A refugee child’s life vest. Child.
We’ve all seen the images of children being washed up onto the shores of beaches, or sitting stunned, covered in blood in the back of Ambulances, or videos of brothers crying together, reunited in emergency rooms.
This piece was so simple, so beautifully lit, and just sucker punched the breath outta me. When I stopped and looked and savored this section, I fully understood the importance of this exhibit.
What kinds of stories do we want to tell our people of the future?
What do the things we hold right now say about us?
What do they say about our culture?
What similarities do they show us?
What kind of a world are we going to leave for other people to learn from?
What kinds of stories are they going to tell about us?
Grab someone you love, grab your wallet, run to catch the train, and get yourself a ticket to this exhibit. Because man, oh man, humanity is a kaleidoscope of beauty, kindness, pain, cruelty, fear, curiosity, discovery, and growth.
And even if you’re not in Chicago, go out to your local museum. Check out what they have to offer you, learn something new, and be a tourist in your own city for the afternoon. We can’t forget the special, magical things that these places hold and all the things we can learn from them!