Thursday, June 22, 2017

Egyptian Artifacts Research

Hello everyone, my name is Holly and I’m a collections volunteer here at the Museum of World Treasures.  I help our curator, Steven King, research the artifacts.  At the moment we’re in the process of researching the Museum’s collection of Egyptian artifacts and placing them in chronological order for a new exhibit.  The list below highlights several periods of Ancient Egyptian history below:

Pre-Dynastic (before 3100 BC)
Old Kingdom (2686–2181 BC)
Middle Kingdom (2055–1650 BC)
New Kingdom (1550–1069 BC)
Ptolemaic (332–30 BC)

Of these, our recent focus has been the Ptolemaic years.   This era began in 305 BC when Ptolemy I Soter, one of Alexander the Great’s successors, gained control of Egypt.  His Ptolemaic Dynasty ruled Egypt for the next 300 years.  (Fun fact: the last Ptolemaic monarch was Cleopatra VII Philopator, better known as THE Cleopatra. After her death in 30 BC, Egypt became part of the Roman Empire.)

During the Ptolemaic years, a melding of Egyptian and Greek culture occurred.  This was perhaps most notable in the religious sector.  A great example of this is the hybrid god Harpocrates, invented by the Greeks based upon the Egyptian god Horus the Child.  To the Egyptians, Horus the Child was the god of the newborn sun.  He was often depicted with a finger to his lips, in representation of the hieroglyph for “child,” but the later Greeks and Romans took this to imply silence and secret-keeping.  Therefore, Harpocrates became the god of silence, secrets, and confidentiality.

We have two, possibly three, Harpocrates terracottas in our collection.  The first depicts him riding a horse, as featured below.
The second terracotta is more worn, but unique in that it serves to demonstrate the number of ways a single deity could be depicted.  Here, along with the usual finger to the lips, Harpocrates holds a pot under one arm.  On his other side is a large circular object that has yet to be identified.
Finally, we have the figure of a head featured below.  Given the mischievous, childlike features, as well as the same, distinctive pointed hat we saw him wearing on the horse, it’s reasonable to assume this is also Harpocrates.
Objects like the Harpocrates terracottas remind us that the cultures of the ancient world were not isolated.  Just like today, there was a constant exchange of ideas, beliefs, and traditions between ethnic groups.  Sometimes, when these ideas are borrowed or modified to suit the needs of a new audience, hybrid cultures such as Ptolemaic Egypt occur.  Research is ongoing.  

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Museum Etiquette 101

Museum folk like humor as much as the next person.  To that end, we have developed a number of tips for museum visitation, all tongue-in-cheek of course and actually the antithesis of how you should act in a museum.  But it’s fun!

So, when visiting a Museum, it is important to act in a certain way so as not to endanger the artifacts or ruin the experience of those around you.  Here are a few tips for being a considerate museum visitor:

1.      Run…as fast as possible – Oftentimes folks get annoyed when you walk too slowly.  Be the considerate guest your mom raised you to be, run through exhibits at full speed, knocking over as many Grecian urns, suits of armor, and bus groups of precious retirees as possible.

2.     Share Your Thoughts Loudly and Proudly – When expounding upon your knowledge of World War II weaponry or running through the exhibits (see tip 1), please do so as loudly as possible.  We have high hopes that if the internal volume of the Museum reaches a high enough decibel level, we can wake up the mummies and cash in like that museum in the movie Night at the Museum.

3.      Drink up – Look, guys, museum folks are humans too and, as such, we know coffee is the lifeblood of the human race. For this reason, we encourage you to bring your grande iced sugar-free vanilla latte with soy milk.  Bonus points for drizzling it on the Mi Lo Buddha.  He needs his morning fix to get up, go to work, and seek Enlightenment just like you and me.

See? He’s thrilled!

4.     Go Solo – If you’ve come with a group, be sure and leave them and move quickly to the most remote area of the galleries.  This step is critically important to the survival of the collections.  In the wild of the museum, displayed dinosaurs and mounted mannequins must forage for sustenance.  In the absence of a stray volunteer or intern, such predators often must resort to feeding on Museum visitors.  Be kind.  Don’t let these dear specimens starve.

5.    Get the Hands-On Experience – Get your paws into the claws of the T. Rex.  He doesn’t mind.  He rather enjoys having his extremities slowly coated in discarded skin cells, grande iced sugar-free vanilla latte (see tip 3) and Cheetos dust.  He licks his claws for nourishment when there aren’t any vagrant curators handy (see tip 4).

6.     Flash On, Flash Off – We encourage pictures, especially those with flash.  One of our staff members loves messages written in invisible ink and has since she was a 5-year-old.  She is dearly hoping to return to her Encyclopedia Brown days of yore by deciphering missives from the greats such as Queen Isabella of Spain and King George III that have been faded by the paparazzi-esque flashes of eager tourists.  Please, she needs this.  She can only spend so long reading easily decipherable text.

As you can see, the rules of museum etiquette may not be exactly as you suspected.  Remember, this is our feeble attempt at humor.  You should actually do just the opposite of everything you just read.

Have fun during your next visit to the Museum of World Treasures! 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Research Update on Ivan

Last June, Steven King, the Curator at the Museum of World Treasures, went on a research trip to study Ivan the Tyrannosaurus rex.  Stops included the site where Ivan was excavated, the Museum of the Rockies and the Royal Tyrrell Museum to examine tyrannosaur material in their collections.  The trip was a success and now, a year later, more information can be shared about the trip and some of the information that has been compiled.

One of the purposes of the trip was to determine how tyrannosaurs use their gastralia.  The gastralia are rib-like bones found under the chest of the animal.  The Museum has several of Ivan’s gastralia and these had been studied before the trip, but never compared to other tyrannosaurs.  Based on material from other museums, tyrannosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus, Gorgosaurus, and Albertosaurus have gastralia that are very similar to those on the Ivan specimen.  In fact, one Gorgosaurus at the Royal Tyrrell Museum has a complete, intact series of gastralia that is a fantastic example of the original skeletal structure of these creatures.
There was also a surprise on the trip.  While looking through the collection at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, Mr. King found a few pieces that were labelled as gastralia.  However, they were shaped differently and appeared to be sternal ribs.  If they are, they would be the first sternal elements identified in a tyrannosaur.  Sternal ribs connect the ribs to the sternum.  In birds, they play an important role in breathing, pushing the sternum out and down when it breathes in.  The sternal ribs suggest that a tyrannosaur also had a sternum.  If it did, the sternum would be too small to be used in breathing.  Perhaps the gastralia were also used.  They could be pulled forward and down with the sternum expanding the whole bottom of the chest.

Suggesting that tyrannosaurs breathed using sternal ribs, a sternum, and gastralia is a new idea.  Mr. King’s findings regarding Ivan and a tyrannosaur’s chest structure will be published next year and we'll hope this information will stimulate debate and discussion among paleontologists from around the world. Ivan’s study demonstrates our commitment to ongoing research here at the Museum of World Treasures.