"Woe, destruction, ruin, and decay; the worst is death and death will have his day.” - William Shakespeare, Richard II
With this virtual exhibition we hope our audience appreciates how death and innovation are two significant themes that have formed human history. Many may not consider how the two can link together, and we hope to demonstrate this. We'd like to encourage an appreciation of how objects act as a memory of the past. The deaths of the Indus Valley and Ancient Egyptian civilisations, and their subsequent discoveries, allow us to look into their technologies and craftwork. We are able to see how innovation transcends death, even after thousands of years. We also want to promote an understanding of how death and innovation can be linked through curious practises and customs such as sword swallowing, medieval medicine, and the use of bone remains in the Enlightenment period. We want to communicate how objects tell us stories of the individuals that have come into contact with them, and how they have furthered innovation in their respective fields. What is important to understand is that innovations did not always enhance life, but could have also been detrimental and lead to death. Advances in science have left us with the power to both safe lives en masse, and take them away. The exhibition is, therefore, both an appreciation of life and of the effects of death. We believe this exhibition is a powerful way of communicating these messages, using objects to bring this theme to life.
The traditional practice of collecting and exposing human remains in museums has been subject to a severe criticism due to the fact that many research techniques might be destructive when applied to small samples of tissue. Even if such techniques are highly avoided, handling damage might occur over time. We acknowledge all these ethical concerns, but would like to assure the public that our tangible contact with the objects that form this virtual exhibition has been strictly controlled by professional curators across all UCL museums. We claim this with a particular emphasis on the 19-century oesophagus that is the only human remain to take part of the given virtual exhibition. Furthermore, with regards to objects that originate in other countries, we acknowledge that there may be ethical issues concerning the return of cultural artefacts. Nevertheless, beyond ethical considerations, the primary goal of our exhibition is to appease public curiosity and enhance further human knowledge. In this context, the display of these objects allows an audience to gain a better understanding of past cultural dimensions.
All members contributed to the development of the virtual exhibition by identiying the common theme, meeting the aims and objectives of the project, doing individual research on the provenance and theme-related recognition of the objects and reaching the desired conclusions.
Assigned focus topics:
De Vito Halevy Danielle: Aims of the exhibition, Conclusions, Sources and Further reading, Amulet of Djed Pillar.
Evtimova Liana: Ethical Considerations, Acknowledgments, Contributors, Statement of students’ consent to publish their work, Hibakusha Portraits.
Kalam Sadia: Introductory image, Background image, Ceramic Model Cart, Conclusions.
Lopes Baroukel Braga João Marcio: Overview, Speculum, Notebook of Sir William Ramsay.
Vasileiadi Evgenia (Jenn): Presentation design and visual effects, Timeline of objects, Map of objects, Tapir Skull.
Xu Wanlen: Navigation through the exhibition, Target audience, Oesophagus and Heart Piercing.
In preparing our virtual exhibition, we were supported by a wide range of professionals, who deserve our greatest gratitude. We would like to thank our course instructor and leading lecturer - Dr. Thomas Kador, University College London (UCL) as well as Prof. Helen Chatterjee (UCL) and our digital education advisor Mira Vogel (UCL) for consulting us and answering our queries at any moment of uncertainty in our collaborative working approach. We are particularly grateful to all the curators across the various UCL Museums, who guided us throughout our interaction with the objects: George Richards (Art Museum), Ian Carroll (Institute of Archeology), Ignacio Faccin (Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archeology), Katy Makin (Special Collections, Archives and Records), Subhadra Das (Pathology Museum), Tannis Davidson (Grant Museum). In addition, we would also like to expand our deepest gratitude to everyone who is part of Object Lessons (BASC2001) and who has guided us and therefore helped us out with the accomplishment of this assignment.
Furthermore, this project was made complete with the special contribution of the International Museum of Surgical Science, Chicago as this is the location of the medieval speculum we incorporated into this particular exhibition.
Sources and Further reading on the theme
On Objects as Cultural Memory:
Danitz, B. and Fein, J. (2017). Objects and Memory. [online] PBS Programs. Available at: http://www.pbs.org/program/objects-and-memory/.
Documentary Film: Objects and Memory (2008)
On Objects and War:
Joreige, L. (2007). Objects of War. Art Journal, [online] 66(2), pp.23-33. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00043249.2007.10791252.
Peterson, C. and Sakkab, A. (2014). The Object of War. [online] The Object of War. Available at: http://www.theobjectofwar.com/.
On Objects and Innovation:
Larsen, T., Landgrebe, J., Day, D., Nevile, M., Mortensen, K., Mondémé, C. and Wagner (PI), J. (2017). Social Objects for Innovation and Learning. [online] Social-objects.org. Available at: http://social-objects.org.
Swan, J., Bresnen, M., Newell, S. and Robertson, M. (2007). The object of knowledge: The role of objects in biomedical innovation. Human Relations, [online] 60(12), pp.1809-1837. Available at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0018726707084915.