About Guest Contributor

From distinguished lecturers to scientific scholars to visiting curators to volunteers to leaders in their respective fields, we often invite guest authors to contribute content to our blog. You'll find a wealth of information written by these fascinating individuals as we seek to expand your level of knowledge with every post.

Chiddingstone Castle curator Maria Esain lays out her all-time favorite objects

Editor’s Note: Today’s blog post comes to us from Chiddingstone Castle curator Maria Esain. Chiddingstone, located in Edenbridge, Kent in the United Kingdom, loaned significant artifacts to HMNS’ Hall of Ancient Egypt.

Many visitors to Chiddingstone ask me the same question: what is your favorite object? I find it the most difficult question to answer, and I can’t choose just one. I tend to like objects that bring plenty of historical information about the people behind them. Particularly in the case of archaeological objects, such as the Ancient Egyptian ones on loan to HMNS.

The selection below is a good example of this. I believe each artifact is an incredible source of information; some with the bonus of being breathtakingly beautiful.

Ibis figure in alabaster and bronze.  Late Period 661-332 BC

Chiddingstone curator Maria Esain shares her favorite ancient Egyptian objects on Beyond Bones

The Ibis was a sacred animal in Ancient Egypt, associated with the god Thoth, who was responsible for writing, mathematics and time. I find it quite impressive that more than 3,000 years ago the Egyptians were such a developed society. They became aware of the importance of recording things and developed hieroglyphics. Other objects demonstrate that their knowledge of mathematics was also incredibly developed.

Monkey khol pot in basalt. Middle Kingdom, ca 2,000BC – 1,750BC

Chiddingstone curator Maria Esain shares her favorite ancient Egyptian objects on Beyond Bones

Another characteristic about Ancient Egyptians that astonishes me is how conscious they were about their personal grooming. This is visible in the many different shaped kohl containers in our collection. Both men and women wore eye make-up for several reasons, including to protect their eyes from the sun’s glare. Wearing make-up also had magical purposes. Animal-shaped containers are recurrent, the most common animals featured being monkeys.

Painted pottery vessel. Predynastic Period, ca 4,500BC – 3,000BC

Chiddingstone curator Maria Esain shares her favorite ancient Egyptian objects on Beyond Bones

This vessel is full of information. As all pre-dynastic objects, it is an invitation to reflect on the length of the Ancient Egyptian civilization. I always explain to our visitors standing in front of our timeline of Ancient Egypt that Cleopatra was as unfamiliar with the Great Pyramids as we are with her.

Shabti of Tamit. Painted wood. New Kingdom. 1550-1086 BC

Chiddingstone curator Maria Esain shares her favorite ancient Egyptian objects on Beyond Bones

The work on this figure is so delicate and intricate, even the eyebrows are carved. This object became very mouldy back in 2008 when the castle had to close for two years, and the Egyptian collection was left with no environmental control. Luckily it was conserved and brought back to all its splendor. Shabtis were funerary figures placed by hundreds inside tombs so that they could undertake agricultural works on behalf of the dead.

Visit our permanent Hall of Ancient Egypt and pick your own favorite artifacts!

Kanpai! Kuraray toasts to harmony and good fortune with traditional Kagamiwari Ceremony

Editor’s Note: This post was provided by Kuraray, local sponsor to the special exhibition Samurai: The Way of the Warrior on display now at HMNS.

Kagami-biraki is a traditional Japanese ceremony performed at celebratory events in which the lid of a sake barrel is broken open with a wooden mallet and the sake subsequently served. The kagami is a symbol of harmony and the kagami-biraki, represents opening to harmony and good fortune.

Recently, Kuraray purchased the MonoSol company, the global market-leading manufacturer of water-soluble polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH) films. Their products are used around the world and touch our lives every day. Monodose films are MonoSol’s fastest-growing product; these are water-soluble films used in products such as Cascade Complete, Tide Pods, Purex Ultrapacks, and other brands of single-dose dishwashing or laundry detergent.

Japanese-based Kuraray held the traditional Japanese Kagamiwari Ceremony at the MonoSol headquarters upon completing the purchase. This ritual of breaking open of a barrel of sake (Japanese rice wine) is a popular custom in Japan. It is performed at special celebrations such as the New Year, a wedding, an anniversary, or the opening of a new business. When the cask of sake is cracked open with a wooden mallet the sake is ladled to wooden masu (cups) and given to the participants, who then toast in Japanese, shouting “Kampai!” Literally translated, kagamiwari means “the opening of a mirror” or “breaking the mirror open.” Kuraray holds events like this for plant openings, dedications, and other important celebrations.

Watch the video below for footage of a Kuraray ground breaking event in Texas, including a Kagamiwari Ceremony.

The acquisition of MonoSol, one of the largest PVOH users in the United States, supports Kuraray’s strategy to expand its vinyl acetate chemical chain business around the world. Through this acquisition, Kuraray expanded its product offering of PVOH films into a wider range of industrial applications, thereby enhancing the company’s competitiveness. Kuraray currently supplies “Poval” PVOH film for optical uses, including a polarizing film, which is an essential component of liquid crystal displays. 

Want to learn more about Japanese culture and traditions? Visit HMNS to see Samurai: The Way of the Warrior,on display through September 7, 2015. Local support for this exhibit is provided by Kuraray.

The Secret Handshake: Presenting Business Cards in Japan

Editor’s Note: This post was provided by Kuraray, local sponsor to the special exhibition Samurai: The Way of the Warrior on display now at HMNS.

“Do you have a card?” is a phrase uttered daily in American business. To us, it’s a piece of paper. We take notes on them, stuff them in our pockets and hopefully file them for future easy access.

But, in Japan, business cards are considered extensions of the individual — formal self-introductions that are treated with the utmost respect.

As such, “meishi koukan” (the exchanging of business cards) commands a distinct level of etiquette, complete with its own process:

  • Remove cards from an actual business card case prior to the meeting and place them on top.
  • Beginning with visitors, highest-ranking attendees exchange cards first. This helps the Japanese learn who is in command.
  • Hold card on the top corner with right hand and offer it with the information facing out. Left hand holds the case.
  • Briefly introduce yourself as you present the card, stating your name and company.
  • When other person reciprocates, receive card with your left hand. Carefully read the information. Restate the person’s name and thank them.
  • Display cards received during the meeting, arranging them from left to right in the order of seating (from your point of view). Learn the names of the people you are speaking with and show respect.

Other tips to remember:

  • Never stuff a card into your pocket – it’s considered extremely rude.
  • It is a direct insult to bend, damage or write on the card in front of the owner.
  • Always maintain an ample supply of cards. You may distribute dozens in a larger meeting, and give multiples to the same person.

Despite these rules, every situation will be slightly different and your Japanese counterparts may have another understanding of what is considered protocol. When in doubt, always err on the side of showing respect and politeness.

 Want to learn more about Japanese culture and traditions? Visit HMNS to see Samurai: The Way of the Warrior, on display through September 7, 2015. Local support for this exhibit is provided by Kuraray.

 

Einstein Scavenger Hunt: Guess That Hall!

Editor’s note: This post was created by HMNS Concierge and Discovery Guide Corey Green.

Einstein at HMNS

 

Our good friend Einstein came to visit the museum and went through many of our exhibit halls. Can you name the halls he’s pictured in? (Click the pictures for answers!)

Einstein at HMNS Einstein at HMNS Einstein at HMNS Einstein at HMNS Einstein at HMNS Einstein at HMNS Einstein at HMNS Einstein at HMNS

 Want to go on a scavenger hunt with your very own Einstein? Good news! You can get him at the Museum Store!