MUSEUMS

Posted: August 23, 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

This week it was announced about the execution of a Syrian archeologist, historian and curator of one of the most spectacular archeological sites in the Middle East. ISIS took this eighty-one year old scholar to the city square of Palmyra and during the busiest time of the day ISIS decapitated him. His headless body was hung from a pole in town. His crime was spending his life dedicated to the excavation and preservation of a 2,000 year old Roman era city. He loved the site so much that he named his daughter for one of its’ queens and when he could no longer work at the site he lived in a house where he could see the ruins every day. ISIS claims that he was a Director of Idols and was thus executed. This is reminiscent of the Taliban in Afghanistan blowing up gigantic stories-high carvings in the name of stringent Islamic ideals. There are now concerns that the ruins in Palmyra will be destroyed as another ISIS shock-and-awe tactic. Of course the artifacts are not destroyed and usually are sold to fund the ISIS military campaign.
Archeological sites are truly open air museums where visitors can walk and enjoy what man has built in the past. Years ago when taking a summer archeological course I had the good luck of visiting a University of Texas dig in Nacogdoches, Texas. I remember listening to Dr. Diane Storey, matriarch of Texas Archeology, tell of her expeditions as she excavated around. Her type “A” personality displayed the type of person that Speilberg invented with his Indiana Jones character. Just as interesting as Diane was, her husband was equally accomplished. He was the curator of the Texas Museum of Natural History. He was quiet and non-assuming but his dedication to the museum could not be denied. She would dig it and he would display it.
I really enjoy museums; museums of all kinds. Whether it is the open expanses of the ruins at Mt. Olympus or the Rijks Museum of Art in Amsterdam or some western museum along old Route 66, they all capture a snapshot of a specific time or geographical location from our past and preserved for future generations. It’s unique to see what generations before us accomplished what they left behind as our world formed into what it is today. It’s said that if we want to see our future then look at our past.
A museum is defined as an institution that cares for a collection of artifacts and other objects of artistic, cultural, historical, or scientific importance and makes them available for public viewing through exhibits that may be permanent or temporary. Today there are over 55,000 museums in 202 countries around the world. This doesn’t include small personal museums that are not registered. The largest number of museums in one area is in Mexico City with a total of 128 museums.
Museums date back to ancient Greece where Plato is credited with the first museum although some dispute this and think they have been in place prior to Plato. Other early museums or displays of strange or curious objects date back to 530 BC when a collection from Mesopotamia was displayed. Early museums often opened their doors to only the “respectful” members of the community. Fortunately this changed over time until we have, for the most part, an open door policy to entry.
Some special collections that are very rare and fragile are still closed to the general population and are only open to scholars for research.
We have our share of museums in our own area. Monroe has the Chenault Military Museum, The Biedenhorn Museum and the Masur Museums. Go to ULM and visit a magnificent museum of Natural History and you may see individuals from this area that helped collect pieces for that display. Bernice has its’ railroad museum and the gem of museum in deep North Louisiana is our own Union Parish Museum in Farmerville. This museum is located in a historical building on Main Street and the enthusiasm of the individuals that run the museum is apparent as rotating exhibits are routinely displayed.
I am so thankful that I live in a country where we are free to visit museums without fear of political intervention or injury. Recently in Tunisia ISIS attacked a museum and killed tourists that wanted to view artifacts from that ancient country. We are so fortunate to live in the good ole United States.

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