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Museum Essay

1261 words - 6 pages

The Oriental Institute attempts to maintain the diversity of collection of the Egyptian culture with many different categories divided it into three distinct sections"” art and kingship, funeral practices, and daily life. However, using "˜in context' display in which the labels of the objects provides historical backgrounds or commentaries of the objects, the collection gives an impression that the intention of the Oriental Institute was to emphasize the importance of the kings and polytheistic religion in Egyptian culture. One of the problems of using the "˜in context' display is that the labels of the objects lead one's thoughts to a particular point or classification the displayer ...view middle of the document...

This is enough to convince the visitors that the Oriental Institute attempts to distribute visitors' attention on different aspects of life. This assumption should not be made, however, until one pays more attention to the labels and the organization of the displays of the exhibit.

        Upon entering, an enormous monument of Tutankhamun demands everyone's attention. The university reconstructed this monument for its display, which is one of the two original monuments of Tutankhamun given by the Egyptian government to the University of Chicago. Why did the Oriental Institute put so much effort in rebuilding and displaying this monument of a famous Egyptian king particularly at this spot right next to the entrance? One could conclude that the Oriental Institute intended to respect and emphasize the rarity of the object. As Kirshenblatt-Gimblett mentioned, "collecting induces rarity by creating scarcity: escalating demand reduces the availability of objects." It could be said that the Oriental Institute intended to increase the scarcity and rarity by collecting and displaying the monument, thus increasing its value and meanings. Others might argue that the monument rather implies the importance of the kingship in the Egyptian culture. This question remains unanswered until one proceeds to the next section of the exhibit.

        The first section focuses on the influence of kingship on languages and artifacts. Distributed around the monument, this section introduces artifacts and languages of Egypt in the order of the dynasties. The development of the artifacts merely depended on the power of the kings, known as pharaohs. For example, the label explains sculptures and figurines of Ramses III and of the sun god Amun Re, who flourished as the dynasty became more powerful and prosperous. On the other hand, during dynasties that kings' power declined, artisans worked individually in their local area, discouraging the manufacture of artifacts related to pharaohs or gods. The sample texts that show methods of deciphering the languages provide another example of influence of kinship. The texts usually mention different pharaohs' names repeatedly, and one such example of decipherment specifically uses Ptolemy (one of the most powerful pharaohs). Among these displays, the replica of the Rosetta stone gives an implication that language was more important and useful among those people at the top of the hierarchy than in daily lives of common citizens of Egypt. Given a weak impression of importance of kingship in Egyptian culture, visitors still cannot determine whether kingship greatly influenced Egyptian life or not.

        Although the second section starts with the model of early burial, most of the section merely contains mummification and after-life concerns that are associated with pharaohs or kings. The labels specify that the coffins include...

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