Flickr Photo of the Month: Pirate Treasure [Jan. 2011]

Pirate Treasure
Pirate Treasure by mombeau2007 on Flickr
Posted here with permission.

There are some amazing photographers that wander the halls of HMNS, and when we’re lucky, they share what they capture in our HMNS Flickr pool. Each month, we share one of these photos here on the blog.

Debi (mombeau2007 on Flickr) took this photo during our recent Flickr meetup* in the Real Pirates exhibit. From the photographer:

I really enjoy the museum shoots and the challenge of getting shots within the displays. The whole “Night at the Museum” feel is wonderful. It is amazing that so many of us have the same subject matter to work with and yet come up with such variety in our results.

Shooting the coins in the treasure chest was a wonderful shot, but to get some of the texture of the coins while trying to contend with the ever present reflections was quite a challenge. I could almost feel these just by looking at the photo.

Inspired? Most of the Museum’s galleries are open for photography, and we’d love for you to share your shots with us on Flickr, Facebook or Twitter. Check out the HMNS photo policy for guidelines.

Want to see – and touch! – this real pirate treasure for yourself? Only a few more weeks to discover the wreck of the pirate ship Whydah – the only authenticated pirate wreck ever discovered – in Real Pirates at HMNS!

 

 

*The photo policy for each temporary exhibition HMNS hosts is determined by the lender; photography is prohibited in the Real Pirates exhibition during general hours. When possible, the Museum seeks permission to host one-time-per-temporary-exhibit, after-hours Flickr meetups; check out our Flickr group Discussions page for updates on upcoming events.


 

Flickr Photo of the Month: Trappings of Yingpan Man [Dec. 2010]

Trappings of Yingpan Man. 3rd - 4th century
Trappings of Yingpan Man. 3rd – 4th century by cybertoad, on Flickr.
Posted here with permission.

There are some amazing photographers that wander the halls of HMNS, and when we’re lucky, they share what they capture in our HMNS Flickr pool. This month, we’re re-starting a series where we’ll share one of these photos on the blog each month.

Elaine (cybertoad on Flickr) took this photo during a Flickr meetup in our current Secrets of the Silk Road exhibition. From the photographer:

The Beauty of Xioahe may have been the exhibit’s celebrity but the Yingpan Man still captured me. His simple funerary mask with the delicately painted eyebrows and the gold leaf evoke a sense of elegance and peace that I hope he carried with him into the after life.

Inspired? Most of the Museum’s galleries are open for photography, and we’d love for you to share your shots with us on Flickr, Facebook or Twitter. Check out the HMNS photo policy for guidelines.

Photography is prohibited in this exhibition during general hours. If you’d like to join one of our Flickr meetups, check out our Flickr group Discussions page for updates on upcoming events.

Want to see Yingpan Man for yourself? Secrets of the Silk Road is only on display for a few more weeks!

Coincidence or Cooperation? Amazon Feathers & Modern Jewels

Here at HMNS, we frequently offer exhibitions that showcase stunning and diverse artistry from cultures around the globe and throughout time. In working here, I’m privileged to be able to walk through each as much as I can while they are here, and absorb the colors, forms, and inspiration of thousands of years of human culture. I love design – modern, ancient, however humans have creatively assembled things. We’re a science museum – but there is just so much art in science. I’m constantly fascinated by it.

Amethyst Necklace,
designed by Ernesto Moreira;
on display in the Gem Vault.

Which was why I am delighted to share something I noticed recently – a commonality between the very modern design showcased in one of our permanent exhibitions and the design of several of the absolutely stunning works of feather art in our current Spirits & Headhunters exhibition – which, while created in relatively modern times (within the last 100 years or so) reflect a design tradition that goes back centuries – if not thousands of years.

Many of the pieces on display in the Smith Gem Vault were created by a local designer, Ernesto Moreira, specifically to showcase some of the worlds most striking and rare gemstones. Made circa 2005-2006, they were inspired by architectural elements – as Ernesto put it, “the ornamental ironwork on windows, doors, and street lights, so prevalent in European cities,” which he has spent many years observing, sketching and photographing.

In contrast, the unique feather art of the Ka’apor tribe is some of the most beautiful and delicate ornamentation produced in the Amazon. Produced for ceremonial use – and then discarded – these objects are created in two sets: one specifically for men, the other for women. The tukaniwar shown below is a “spectacular neck ornament,” made for women from “mythologically harmless bird feathers…the blue color connects the wearer to the sky where all the culture heroes dwell.”  (Check out the exhibit catalog for more info.)

As you can see from the image, there are blue feathers woven into the ornament that would have hung in the front – as well as the smaller ornament that would have hung in back, once the necklace was tied.

tukaniwar, on display in
Spirits & Headhunters

It would seem that these two objects – created by artists from very different cultural traditions – would have nothing in common. However, the hanging feathered ornament is extremely similar to the small jeweled ornaments that Ernesto designed into the clasp of his pieces in the Gem Vault (if you haven’t been in the Vault yet – trust me, you’re going to want to check it out in person).

I wondered if there could possibly be a connection – and when associate curator for Amazonia Adam Mekler was here to install the Spirits & Headhunters exhibition, I asked him. Sure enough – it turns out that Moreira had worked with Mekler many years ago when parts of this collection were first on display.

Pretty amazing coincidence, to be sure – but I had to find out if there was any merit to the theory that one had influenced the other. (This *is* a science museum, after all.) Here’s what Ernesto had to say:

” I can tell you right away Adam’s pieces did not have an immediate direct impact on my work. That said, I have noticed a pattern in the way my brain works in regards to creativity. When I was a teenager, I looked at Japanese prints and architecture… then in my early twenties I made a collection of one of a kind pieces called little people. One time during a solo Gallery show the entire collection sold out. The gallery owner told me it was sold to mainly Asian customers. Sometime later…I realized how Japanese my pieces actually were… in their geometry and their compositional balance. Most recently during the making of the museum Gem Vault pieces I began to adorn the settings with filigree… but not just the normal filigree… a more architectural version. This time it did not take me long to figure out that, once again, I was translating many of the images in my head into my jewelry designs since I had spent many years sketching and photographing much of the ornamental ironwork on windows, doors, and street lights, so prevalent in European cities (something I still do). So it seems I work best absorbing and letting be, then somehow, sometime the subject matter reappears in my work. I worked with Adam Mekler and his incredible Amazonian collection during many years and for months at a time I would handle these amazing works… absorbing as usual. I doubt that such resemblance between the indigenous works and my own are purely coincidental, yet I cannot claim an intentional link.” [emphasis mine]

So, not an intentional connection – but I was pleased to discover such a link between ornamentation designed by these two very different artists and cultures. It’s fascinating to see how artists are inspired and how very different cultures can influence one another, sometimes in seemingly random – but very delightful – ways. It inspires me to take a closer look at everything around me, in the museum – but also out in the world. Part of the joy in seeing real artifacts, up close, is having the opportunity to examine them for these little details that allow you to really experience the object first-hand.

So, how about you – what little things have you noticed about the world?

The Lester and Sue Smith Gem Vault is a permanent exhibition at HMNS – but you only have a few more weeks to see Spirits & Headhunters before the exhibition moves on. Don’t miss it! Before you come, you can learn more about these fascinating cultures in a preview video interview with curator Adam Mekler below.

Can’t see the video? Watch it here.

Building an exhibit-The Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Story

 Ossuary used in Jewish funeral practices
1st century B.C.E
On display in The Birth of Christianity:
A Jewish
Story
starting tomorrow.

Registrars have many duties and wear many hats but one of my favorite registration duties is condition reporting.  Which is exactly what it sounds like; I report what the condition is of an object. 

Last week, I had the privilege of working with the staff from the Hebrew University on the installation of our new exhibit, The Birth of Christianity:  A Jewish Story. As each crate was opened and its artifacts unpacked, HMNS Collections staff worked along side of the Hebrew University staff checking every detail of the artifacts to assure they had survived the long journey from Jerusalem intact and unchanged.  So I’ve really been up close and personal with a lot of antiquities lately.  (Ossuaries are even cooler when you can see the chisel marks.) 

Once we agreed that all was good, it was time for the objects to be moved into the cases for the duration of the exhibit.  The movement and positioning of high-value artifacts that are fragile or delicate or heavy or any combination of the three is a tricky thing, always left to professionals.  And that’s what I really want to tell you about: the guys.

Every museum has them, formally called exhibition preparators, more commonly (and affectionately) known as the exhibit guys.  You know that expression ‘jack of all trades, master of none’?  Yeah, that doesn’t apply to our guys.  If the exhibit designer and the curator want something to look just so, it’s the guys that make it happen.  They can build temporary walls and exhibit cases, paint ‘em any color; hang signage, labels, artwork; and wire up the electronic stuff too. They pretty much do it all and do it well.  I’ve been working with and watching them for years through many, many exhibit installations but the best is watching them handle the objects.

 These are bottles, plates, amphoriskos, beakers,
modiolus (measuring-cup) and unguentarium
created during the 1st century CE
On display in The Birth of Christianity:
A Jewish
Story
starting tomorrow.

For The Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Story, all the guys moved large heavy crates right where we needed them in the gallery.  I observed Carlos and Victor gently placing delicate Roman glass and slender metal implements into their exhibit case.  Glen, Mike, Carlos, and Victor lifted thousand year old stone ossuaries out of crates, onto tables where we examined them, then smoothly moved them to their exhibit platforms.  While all this movement of artifacts was going on they communicated verbally and visually.  Their physical movements were steady, exact, cautious, sure-footed, and rarely wasted.  Verbal communication was usually short and direct, mostly in English with a little Spanish thrown in.  However, the patter can become jokey and teasing once an object, crate, or case bonnet is secure and everyone relaxes for a minute or two.  Mike and Carlos are usually the instigators of this behavior.

 Some of “The Guys” lower a 2000 yr old bath tub
that weighs one and a half tons into the exhibit.
You can see it, starting tomorrow in
The Birth of Christianity:A Jewish Story.

In every exhibit, there’s at least one ‘hoo-boy-this-is- HEAVY’ object.  For this particular exhibit, it was the stone tub.  I haven’t a clue what its actual weight is, the Hebrew University staff and the guys could certainly tell you, but it needed some special equipment and handling by the guys. 

So, they brought in a gantry that they’ve rigged themselves.  It breaks down into a few large parts, a large long I-beam at top, triangular sides with wheels, so they can easily transport and assemble it where it’s needed.  There are also differently sized shackles and rope chains that are kept in a big wooden box Glen made.  Included in all this are straps of strong but lightweight material that can wrap around an object to steady it while being moved.  So the guys expertly got everything in place, always moving slowly and carefully.  The tub got lifted out of its crate and the gantry moved over to the exhibit platform.  Then oh so slowly, slowly, cautiously, gingerly the tub was lowered to its exact spot.  Well, ok, exact spot more or less.

That’s a really brief description of a process that took quite a bit of the morning.  Those of us not directly involved with the movement (like your truly) stood way the heck outta of the way but ready to rush in if needed.  The guys were doing their standard excellent job but we sorta held our breath from time to time anyway.  It’s not so much that a moment like that is tense as it is that everyone is really hyper-focused on what’s happening.  But it is a wonder to behold the guys in action, way more entertaining than most sports.  And I shake my head in amazement most every time I watch them.  Thanks guys!

Special thanks to Eydie Rojas for the installation photo.