During his life, Genghis Khan conquered more of the globe than any other man – including popular favorites Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great. His fame and repute lasted for centuries: in The Canterbury Tales‘ longest story, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote of him –
This noble king was called Genghis Khan
Who in his time was of so great renown
That there was nowhere in no region
So excellent a lord in all things.
He lacked nothing that belonged to a king
As of the sect of which he was born
He kept his law, to which he was sworn.
And thereto he was hardy, wise and rich
And piteous and just, always liked;
Soothe of his word, benign and honorable,
Of his courage as any center stable;
Young, fresh and strong, in arms desirous
As any bachelor of all his house.
A fair person he was and fortunate,
And kept always so well royal estate
That there was nowhere such another man.
This noble king, this Tartar Genghis Khan.
Compare this admiring portrayal to Genghis Khan in modern (OK, 80’s) pop culture. Or, what we think we all “know” of him – as the cunning barbarian who spread terror across Asia.
In reality, Genghis Khan was also the brilliant architect of one of history’s most advanced civilizations. Though he was raised in a climate of brutal tribal warfare, he forbade looting and torture. Though unable to read, he gave his people a written language and a sophisticated society, with fair taxation, free trade, stable government, and freedom of religion and the arts.
Now, you can discover the real Genghis in our newest special exhibition, opening Friday – the largest-ever presentation of 13th century treasures related to his life. More than 200 spectacular artifacts will be on display, including the first-ever printing press and paper money, imperial gold, silk robes and sophisticated weaponry of the world’s most visionary ruler and his descendants.
Plus – we’re giving away cool stuff. Check out the exhibition web site for details on how to enter the “Conquer Your Fears” giveaway, and learn more about exhibition-related events. Hope to see you there!
| 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.
Today our guest blogger is Melinda Davenport, a representative from Body Worlds 2.
As my first official post on the BEYONDbones blog, I have to say this has been quite a wild past two weeks. Hope everyone is recovering from Ike slowly but surely.
If you’re interested in taking a break from the 24-hour Ike news coverage, come check out the new Body Worlds 2 and the Brain – Our Three Pound Gem exhibit at the museum. This is only the third stop for Body Worlds 2 and has already created quite a buzz amongst Houstonians.
Here’s a look at what folks that have seen the exhibit are saying:
“The most wonderful, fabulous and incredible display I’ve ever seen!”
“I loved it, and I am totally blown away by the intricacies of our amazing bodies.”
“One of the most amazing events ever to grace my eyes. Gave my children and others a new idea to the concept of being a human!”
The cool thing is, you get to learn all about how our most important organ – the brain – functions and copes with illness and disease, and explore how brain performance can be enhanced. This time around, the exhibit incorporates 200 real human body specimens and 20 full-body specimens in dramatic life-like poses; healthy and unhealthy organs; body parts and slices – all preserved through plastination.
The Plastination process was invented by Dr. Gunther von Hagens, the creator of the Body Worlds exhibits. During Plastination, all bodily fluids and soluble fats are replaced with reactive resins and elastomers such as silicon rubber and epoxy through vacuum forced impregnation. After gas and heat, the specimens assume rigidity and maintain those infamous life-like dramatic poses.
Here’s my list of the must-see plastinates at the exhibit:
- The Skateboarder (shown above) – You’ll see what happens to your body when engaged in extreme sports and when you push your body to its limit.
- The Drawer Man - A unique look inside the complicated body from skin to intestines.
- The Exploding Man - The largest display in the exhibit featuring each and every organ.
- The Figure Skaters - Shows how elegant the muscles work for fine-tuned athletes.
The exhibit is considerably different than the Body Worlds that came to Houston in 2006 – in content and display – and is shown on two floors of the museum, so its definitely a sight to see! Body Worlds 2 is 50% larger than the last showing in Houston and has a detailed display of exactly how the human brain operates. After seeing Body Worlds 2, please feel free to add your comments below to let us and other museum-goers know what you thought of the exhibit.