Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Category: Around the Globe (page 1 of 5)

Week 9 – University student desk inspirations

I would like to present a cool list of learning/study spaces shared by college students who are continuing their studies in the US and Japan. What are the similarities and differences of your study/work space to the ones in this post?  What can you not study/work without? 🙂

Ami YoshidaObihiro, Japan

 

Aleksandar Sarić – It is not artistic at all, but that’s what it looks like. A lot of notebooks and papers, nice view with trees and nature. Jumbo elephant – I find it to be great motivation.

Location: Medford, Massachusetts

Kumail Zaidi – I have been working from home entirely since March. My advisor let me bring home my computer from the office to help with my research work. Besides, I already had a work desk at home where I used to work sometimes. It has become my primary desk now. All my meetings with my advisor etc. are on zoom. Moreover, I have been doing all the teaching over zoom as well.

Location: Medford, Massachusetts

Note: The life of a university student truly consists on balancing numerous aspects of life: studies, work (for some), social life and personal care. As a graduate student myself, I particularly struggle to allocate time to participate at online social events, mainly because they feel like an extension of my school or work life. For this reason, I really appreciate all of the participant who has ever submitted replies to My Home is a Museum project. Your contributions are much appreciated!

 

The Egyptian Museum – A Monument to Egyptology

Front entrance of the Egyptian Museum

I dearly love to travel. And whenever I’m making plans for a trip (because I am one of those people who tends to make a plan for each day of the trip), I usually include a visit to whatever museum(s) happen to be there. In light of our current circumstances, I have found myself reminiscing about my past visits to these museums and thinking more critically about my visits. One of the most interesting and thought-provoking ones was my visit to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. I think almost all of us had that ancient Egypt obsession when we were kids – for me, it entailed toting around a huge gold Egyptology book for kids, drawing pyramids with imagined traps inside to deter grave robbers, studying hieroglyphics, and promising myself that one day I would go to see the pyramids.

So you can imagine the depths of my delight when I had the chance to travel to Egypt and plan my visit to the Egyptian Museum. Nearly stuffed to the rafters with ancient Egyptian artifacts (so full, in fact, that newly-discovered artifacts are often put back into the ground with their location recorded in order to avoid having to find storage for yet another ancient object), what surprised me was that the Egyptian Museum was almost a monument to the history of Egyptology itself. Before I even entered the museum, I noticed the monument to Auguste Mariette and other prominent Egyptologists of the twentieth century. Almost all of these Egyptologists were not Egyptian, but rather European, many of whom were either French or British. Unsurprising, given Egypt’s history with these two nations. The architecture of the museum itself also has classical Western influences, with the ionic columns and Egyptian-stylized muses adorning the entryway.

A view of the interior of the Egyptian Museum

Once I entered the museum after waiting in the incredibly long line outside the gates, I was struck by the vastness of the hall before me and the seemingly endless array of artifacts. Mounted unobtrusively on a column – it is very easy to miss – was a very sad replica of the Rosetta Stone.

Rosetta Stone replica

Thin and less than half the size of the real one, this replica was an unimpressive imitation of the real thing and served as a reminder – to me, at least – of the extensive collection the British Museum has of artifacts that are culturally significant to nations around the world. I continued to make my way through the museum, which is organized chronologically. Many of the artifacts, as I progressed deeper and deeper into the museum, actually did not have any labels accompanying them. Those that did, I found, looked as though they had been there since the time of the Egyptologists who are remembered outside in the monument with Auguste Mariette. They were also just simply that – a label. No interpretation or description of cultural significance; just a short and to the point description of what the object is and where it was found. To be fair, there were some labels that were more updated with fuller descriptions. The small exhibit dedicated to Akhenaten, I remember, was fascinating. However, I do remember being a bit frustrated by all those artifacts – and even mummies – who sat quietly in their cases in a dusty corner without any description of what (or who) they were. It is as though the museum is rather more like a storage space that guests can wander through, or as though it was simply put on display before having to quickly move on to prepare space for the next artifact.

I remember having the distinct impression that it was as if many artifacts had only just been discovered and put out for guests to see, giving rise to my feeling that the museum is not only providing a history of ancient Egypt but also a history of Egyptology and the discovery of these fascinating artifacts. The many crates left lying in various corners (or even in the middle of some of the galleries) whose ancient contents one could only guess at only contributed to this sense.

 

Some of the crates that were scattered around gallery floors. Perhaps it is in preparation to move them to the Grand Egyptian Museum?

While I certainly had a wonderful visit, I also felt that the Egyptian Museum was long overdue for an update. Which is why I was delighted to learn that the Grand Egyptian Museum is in the works and will open soon (although this opening date has been delayed a few times it seems). We drove past it on our way to the pyramids and I was in awe of the sheer size of the building as well as the highly stylized pyramid-inspired architecture. The Tutankhamun collection will be moved there and many artifacts that have never been on display will soon be appreciated by visitors.

I wonder, however, if visits to the Egyptian Museum will dwindle if the Tutankhamun exhibit moves out of it to the Grand Egyptian Museum. Hopefully, as the efforts to open the Grand Egyptian Museum continue, there will also be work done towards updating the original Egyptian Museum. The museum’s central location in Tahrir Square and its bright red-hued building makes it a bit difficult to sweep off to the side and simply forget about it. To do so would in some respects be the erasure of Egypt’s complex history of the study of its own past.

 

Responses for Week 6 – “Time”

The concept of time has occupied the brain of the human kind for millennia’s. The history of timekeeping  is just as ancient.  Nowadays, the passing of time can be observed through the changed in the environment, therefore it can be related to the concept of space but it can not be fully studied, for example in a lab. Therefore there is no universal explanation of time. Contrary to the highly concrete understanding of time, Cambridge professor Huw Price, argued that the basics of time stem from the inter world of an individual rather than the physical world. The fundamentals of time and its perception are related with the unique sense of a moments, its passage and the direction.

Despite the critical debates on the subject of time, I believe that the outbreak of the Pandemic and the global lockdowns is on the track of reevaluating certain, previously rigid concept of it. For this reason, I wanted to challenge the readers of the blog to find material representations of such complex concept as time without leaving their living environments. I am happy to share with the responses of the readers below:

Zahra Mammadova
Baku, Azerbaijan 
Curatorial/educational assistant at YARAT Contemporary Art Space

I would like to share my object relating to the topic of “Time” as a part of online exhibition. 

Although there should be nothing difficult about sharing this object, still I felt a little bit uneasy, even mysterious while preparing myself to it, which leads to an obvious thought – it matters to me very much. 

This little angel, that you see from the photos below, was bought by friend of mine, more specifically by our family friend in London, UK, in one of his trips. This person was a professional mountain climber, who was lost in mountains 3 years ago with his fellows and then was found dead thereafter a year. 
The last time I had any connection with him, was 10+ years ago, when I was still a little child, and barely remember everything.  I had very much sympathy and respect for this intelligent person, but sadly then our families stopped communicating for a while. After roughly 10 years, we reconciled and I was planning to meet him one day after such a long time, when I grew up to into an adult, and he was successfully doing his career in industrial alpinism. I still has this words sounding in my mind  how his mother would tell me several times  “come visit us, Namin have a lot of books to share with you, you will find so many topics to talk, it will be exciting”  And every time I would respond “I will come in recent days definitely , but unfortunately now I do not have TIME”. I was thinking in my mind, “yeah there is no reason to rush, hopefully we will meet soon” After he went missing, and then found dead his mother shared his belongings with people. And this little angel she gifted to me. She said that he bought 2 of such angels, one of them is his sister’s the other was kept untouched. She explained the reason: the two angels were bought for individuals who he considered special to him, one of them is the sister, as for the other – he was waiting for right person to give it to them. And, ironically this one was forgotten in its package for a lot of years. Now it is placed in the shelve above my bed. This is strange, how life can turn events in unimaginable ways, I still find it mystic why and how this little angel which was meant to be given to a special person ended up in my hands.

 
The lesson that I learned from this story and what this object symbolizes to me was the following: never, ever postpone meetings with friends, family, significant people in your life that you plan. Always be in touch with them and share your kindness, care, and time with them – do not be greedy in this regard. By doing this, you double good emotions and gift them to your loved ones. And now, sometimes I feel like this object angel is with me for a reason, I feel a spiritual connection with it. 

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“Pivotal life events” – responses

Last week’s theme was slightly challenging. A lot has happened in the lives of all of us especially in the last past 4-5 months. So I think it might have been hard to cherry pick one particular event from that myriad. Nevertheless, I am glad to share the following submission.

Fatima Huseynli

Student

Budapest, Hungary

An mage of an electric piano on a stand against a wall. 

“The object that fits the theme perfectly for me, is definitely my piano. I remember back in March, when the pandemic was just picking up and the lockdowns and preventative measures were partly in place, I purchased an electric piano from Amazon. Boy, oh Boy, was that an incredibly important, dare I say, perfectly timed an extremely impactful event in my life. I would be lying if I said what to expect from the following few months. What I did know for sure, was the pure joy, sweet, nostalgic melancholy that I felt while practicing my scales for the first time in over 5 years.

I never picked my piano before. During and after music school I only played my mom’s old, “BELARUS” that was perhaps 35 years old at the moment I took my first piano classes. It was and still is (it’s back at home in my hometown in Azerbaijan) a very reliable instrument (except for the C5 key that often got stuck to my frustration). It was also very large and hard to move due to its fully wooden carcass and mighty inner mechanism and stringing that made it overall a tad intimidating for little me. The grand and imposing silhouette of “BELARUS” seemed to judge me and longed to be played by a better, more experienced and skillful musician. I cannot say I never enjoyed my companionship with it, but I cannot say it inspired me and supported me-we lacked a deeper connection. Certainly, I am not blaming the old soviet piano for discontinuing my musical education on an academic or professional level, no there were many factors at fault there. However, it did play a role in my eventually deliberately emotionally distancing myself from music. 

How incredible is it, that when a few years ago having grown up to appreciate a lot of my prior experiences, I have gotten a newly formed passion and ecstatic almost feverish interest in music theory. I found myself on a quest to understand music, any music classical, baroque, contemporary, eastern, western, folk, techno, psytrance; you name it, I wondered what goes on within it. This time around I was taking a completely different approach that strangely does not have much to do with performing an elaborate repertoire. So I started using different online tools, got a few materials of the internet and started to learn about harmonics, tonics, modes, genres, compositional elements and structures, that composers and songwriters alike use in the magical process of creating a musical piece or song. 

Not long after I decided I simply cannot do without a piano. My piano to be more precise. A companion and friend who will help me further analyze the intricate weaving of the fabric of the nature of music itself.

Ana Perez 

Boston, Massachusetts 

Looking for a job and teaching art online. I paint almost every day. 

 

My painting: “Opportunities” is a response to the theme “Pivotal Life Events”.

Art matters to me, I can express there what I am feeling at the moment. Also, beauty in general is not the same to have a print (what used to be in the same frame) than a real painting on the wall.

A friend moved away to New York and I made the painting for her room one week before she left, I thought it was an opportunity to show her how much fun we have had these 2 years and even if she would see it just for a week I thought it was worth doing it. It will give the opportunity to a new roommate to enjoy it when she comes into that room. 

    

An abstract painting in a gold color frame.

Rising to the Challenge of Economic Hardship

As I was scrolling through some news articles about museums on my phone, I came across an interesting article about how the Musée Rodin in Paris is using revenue from the sale of bronze casts of Auguste Rodin’s sculptures in order to decrease their budget deficit due to the pandemic. I was not previously aware of the museum’s decision from two years ago to dramatically increase the number of works that can be cast, a decision that is clearly benefitting the museum now. Initially, it seems strange to allow for the sculptures to be made again in bronze and sold to private collectors and other museums; however, this decision was allowed for in the institution’s bequest and Rodin himself stipulated that the museum has the rights to his works. This year, two large bronze pieces have been sold to a Middle Eastern museum, helping the Musée Rodin to lower their deficit to about three million euros. The institution has also set up an online donations page from which they have received 1,200 euros.

Musée Rodin

            What efforts have other museums made to decrease their financial burdens? The Museum of the City of New York is discussing launching virtual adult education courses that might include online discussions moderated by curators that are focused on New York topics. The museum is also putting the online programming it has released during the pandemic to good use: it has collected over 4,000 photographs and “Covid Stories” documenting New York’s experience of the pandemic and curators are now preparing an exhibition for the fall centered on this topic (using a previous 2018 exhibition focused on past epidemics in the city, titled “Germ City” as a model).

As this year's flu season begins, we reflect on the 1918 influenza pandemic and other contagious diseases the city has had to contend with.

Jacob A. (Jacob August) Riis (1849-1914). [Infirmary.] ca. 1890. Museum of the City of New York 90.13.2.322.

Meanwhile, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation in Germany is aiming to restructure the extensive bureaucracy within the foundation and perhaps even dissolve and replace it with a new foundation to manage the state museums in a more streamlined and concise structure. This would also allow for more budget autonomy for each individual museum as well as restructuring financing in order to allow for improved long-term planning.

Berlin's Museum Island at sunrise (imago images/Panthermedia)

            This is an extremely difficult time for all museums as they struggle to survive the economic hardships caused by the pandemic. Many institutions have had to furlough staff and cancel programming, and still some might not survive. However, it is encouraging to see the diverse and creative methods – and self-evaluation – that some institutions are employing in order to improve their economic prospects.

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