Striking Iron: A New Exhibition at the National Museum of African Art

One of the current exhibits at the National Museum of African Art is “Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths”. It focuses on blacksmithing in sub-Saharan Africa and features works dating from the 17th century to recent times: not just weapons, but other tools and implements such as musical instruments.

The range and design of shapes is truly impressive. Below are just some of the examples.

Smithsonian African Art Iron Exhibit Ceremonial Knives

I wasn’t familiar with the concept of rain wands (image below) before. They were planted in the earth with the intention of drawing the life force of the Earth up toward the heavens in order to bring down rain.

Smithsonian African Art Iron Exhibit Rain Wands

Various kinds of sound instruments are also displayed, including lamellophones.

Smithsonian African Art Iron Exhibit Lamellophone

And, since it’s ironworking, there are weapons.

Smithsonian African Art Iron Exhibit Double-bladed Dagger

I’m especially struck by the multiple elaborate curls of the ceremonial knives and the rain wand in the shape of a three-headed snake. Simply stunning.

The exhibition runs until October 20, 2019.

Found via NPR—make sure to visit the article for more photos!

Images: Ceremonial knives by Olivia Sun for NPR (Democratic Republic of the Congo; 19th century; iron). Rain wands by Olivia Sun for NPR (Nigeria; iron). Lamellophone (chisanji) via Smithsonian (Chokwe artist, Angola; late 19th century; wood and iron). Double-bladed dagger by Olivia Sun for NPR (late 19th-century Sudan; iron, bone, and crocodile skin).

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Spring 2019: Tolkien Exhibition at The Morgan in NYC

The Morgan Library and Museum is going to have a Tolkien exhibition.

Morgan Library The Hobbit Tolkien Exhibition 2019

From the exhibit description:

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth celebrates the man and his creation. The exhibition will be the most extensive public display of original Tolkien material for several generations. Drawn from the collections of the Tolkien Archive at the Bodleian Library (Oxford), Marquette University Libraries (Milwaukee), the Morgan, and private lenders, the exhibition will include family photographs and memorabilia, Tolkien’s original illustrations, maps, draft manuscripts, and designs related to The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.”

They’ve also made an introductory video:

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth by The Morgan Library & Museum on YouTube

Related program includes a lecture, gallery talks, workshops, and family programming, among others. The exihibit is open January 25 through May 12, 2019. More information at The Morgan website.

Found via Locus.

Image cropped from the cover illustration for The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, via The Morgan

National Museums Scotland Online

National Museums Scotland have made their collections available online.

First, you can tour the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh through Google street view. Around 20,000 objects on display at the permanent galleries can be seen this way.

Google Arts National Museums Scotland Screencap

In addition, over 1,000 objects from the National Museums have been added to the Google Arts & Culture online collection. They are arranged in groups that work much like online photo albums. Clicking on an image opens a detailed view of that item with additional information.

Four separate museums form the National Museums Scotland: in Edinburgh, the National Museum of Scotland and the National War Museum, plus the National Museum of Flight in East Lothian and the National Museum of Rural Life in East Kilbride.

This is so great! I’ve been lucky enough to be able to visit the National Museum of Scotland in person, but that was years ago and I couldn’t get to everything I wanted to see. Now I can patch those holes in my not-quite-a-bucket-list. 🙂

Image: screencap from National Museums Scotland Google Arts & Culture webpage

Black Panther Is Coming to the Smithsonian African American Museum

Earlier this year, the Smithsonian African American Museum of History and Culture screened the superhero movie Black Panther as part of their programming.

Smithsonian African American Museum Black Panther Hero Suit

Now the museum has plans to incorporate the movie into their collections in a larger way:

“The museum acquired several objects from Disney’s record-breaking film Black Panther, including the hero costume worn by actor Chadwick Boseman; a shooting script signed by Ryan Coogler (co-writer; director), Kevin Feige (producer, president of Marvel Studios), Nate Moore (executive producer) and Joe Robert Cole (co-writer; producer); two pages of spec script; and 24 high-resolution production photographs. Plans for display of the objects are under consideration by the museum.” […]

Black Panther is the first superhero of African descent to appear in mainstream American comics, and the film itself is the first major cinematic production based on the character. Black Panther illustrates the progression of blacks in film, an industry that in the past has overlooked blacks, or regulated them to flat, one-dimensional and marginalized figures. The film, like the museum, provides a fuller story of black culture and identity.”

Interesting! “Plans for display … are under consideration” definitely sounds like museum speak for planning a permanent exhibit. 🙂 In the meanwhile, the collection spotlight blog post, “Wakanda to Smithsonian”, includes a few images of the Black Panther hero costume (armor) on the premises.

Found via File 770.

Image by The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

British Library’s Exhibition Harry Potter: A History of Magic Now Online

The British Library has partnered with Google Arts & Culture to bring online their physical exhibition Harry Potter: A History of Magic.

British Library Google Harry Potter A History of Magic Exhibition

Apart from various aspects of the story and the movie series, the exhibition covers for example illustrations, the history of real-world magic, and early sketches and notes by J.K. Rowling. In addition, on display are a number of items from the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.

My favorite feature is perhaps the section covering the real-world history of various Hogwarts classes, closely followed by the animals and fantastical beasts section.

Found via Helsingin Sanomat.

Image: screencap from the Google Arts & Culture page for the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Rosetta Stone Online in 3D

The British Museum has made a 3D-scan of the Rosetta Stone and released it for exploration, download, and sharing. The model is available at the museum’s Sketchfab site:

Sketchfab British Museum Rosetta Stone Screencap
Screencap of the Rosetta Stone 3D model by the British Museum at Sketchfab

I just love the effort museums and libraries are making to bring their collections online. Providing 3D models is another step in making the collections relevant to the 21st century life.

Visit The British Museum at Sketchfab for additional 3D models—over 200 at this writing!

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Temporary Exhibition: a Viking Age Village in Finland

The Viking age apparently is a bit of a thing in the Nordic countries this year: in addition the brand new museum in Stockholm, Vapriikki museum centre in Tampere will host an exhibition on Viking-age life in Finland starting this summer.

The exhibit covers village life in 1017. It’s based on the discovery of and archaeological finds from a whole Viking-age village called Tursiannotko in Pirkkala at the shores of lake Pyhäjärvi.

Birckala 1017 runs from June 09, 2017 to August 19, 2018. The exhibit description (from their 2017 brochure) reads:

“It was the time of the Vikings. In the village of Tursia, people cultivated the land, traded, made sacrifices to the gods, and ate large amounts of pork. Both the Vikings and the Novgorodians sought the riches of the Häme wilderness; however, one small village of indomitable Häme folk still held out against the enemy…

“To celebrate the centennial of Finnish independence, the Birckala 1017 exhibition allows visitors to travel through time and visit a village in Northern Häme a millennium ago. You will get to know smithing skills, about cooking outdoors, and the principles that guided life for the Finns of the past […]”

On display will be, for example, bone arrowheads, decorated spoons, beads, tools, and a sword dated to 1050-1200 and its replica. Many items are being shown to the public for the first time.

Yle Birckala 1017 Swords

Apart from the exhibit indoors, a yard with replicas (and non-replica sheep!) is available for trying out some of the iron age skills.

Yle Birckala 1017 Tursiannotko Cottage

Vapriikki in housed in an old factory hall whose oldest parts date back to the 1880s. All the exhibits are covered by a single entry ticket. More info on the Vapriikki website.

Images: Swords by Antti Eintola / Yle; Cottage interior by Jussi Mansikka / Yle

Vikingaliv, a New Viking Museum in Stockholm

A new museum focusing on Vikings opened in Stockholm, Sweden, at the end of April 2017. The Vikingaliv museum is divided into two parts, a static exhibit and a ride, and it highlights details of everyday life besides just the warrior men of bloody repute, including dwellings, farming, cooking, travel, the lives of children and women, slave trade, and religious practices.

Vikingaliv Logo

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the museum is Ragnfrid’s Saga, an 11-minute long ride through dramatized settings with sound and light effects. The ride follows the story of Ragnfrid and her husband Harald, and takes visitors across the Baltic Sea from Sweden to Kiev and Miklagård (Constantinople) and finally back to Scandinavia and the British Isles. It’s currently available in Swedish, English, Finnish, Russian, German, and Chinese.

Vikingaliv Screencap 2 Characters

Privately owned and operated, Vikingaliv sits west of central Stockholm on the island of Djurgården conveniently close to other museums and destinations. Visit the Vikingaliv and Visit Stockholm websites for more.

Images via Vikingaliv

New Research Resource: Gigantic Online Picture Map of London

The London Picture Archive is a gigantic, free online photo map of the city’s past. The project has been nicknamed Collage.

Collage The London Picture Archive

Managed by London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), the map is made with over 250,000 photos, prints, maps, and drawings from the collections of LMA and Guildhall Art Gallery. Visitors can search by street name, or browse featured galleries and subjects. From the description of Collage:

“The images provide an extraordinary record of London and its people from the fifteenth century to the present day. The whole of Greater London is covered, as are the adjoining counties. Some of the many highlights include photographs of Victorian London; the sixteenth century ‘Agas’ map of London; Hollar’s stunning panorama from 1647; beautifully designed twentieth century posters for London’s tramways; the Cross and Tibbs photographs of Second World War damage to the City of London and the collections formerly held at the Guildhall Print Room. We regularly add new content from the LMA collections and, in particular, continue to develop descriptions and subject tags for the very large London County Council Photograph Library.”

I’ve only poked around for a short time, but for general purposes Collage looks like an endless source of images. For more specific searches it may not do quite so well. It certainly appears to be a worthwhile source for historical or historically inspired worldbuilding.

Image: screencap of Collage home page by Eppu Jensen

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna

An End and a New Beginning for Bede’s World

Bede’s World, a small museum in Jarrow, Tyne & Wear, Northumbria, dedicated to the Venerable Bede and 7th-century England, shut down its operations in February 2016.

Bedes World Main Entry

Bedes World Entrance Inside

In addition to indoor exhibits, the museum includes several replica wattle and daub buildings, modeled on structures excavated in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria and built with original materials and contemporary methods. On the grounds there is also a herb garden and a working farm with a small collection of rare breed animals resembling those that lived 1,300 years ago.

Bedes World Collage

The museum issued the following statement:

“It is with great regret that the Trustee Board took the decision for Bedes World [sic] to cease operation from Friday 12 February 2016 due to a lack of funds.

“Steps are being taken to put the company into administration through the appointment of an Insolvency Practitioner.

“The Trustee Board have made arrangements for the immediate care of the farm animals and the security of the site.

“The Board would like thank all staff, volunteers and stakeholders for their hard work and dedication to Bedes World. [sic]”

Fortunately, only a few weeks afterwards better news surfaced: a new operator was found to run the site. At this writing it isn’t clear what their plans for Bede’s World are, though. (Follow this link to read the statement by Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle, the new operator.)

Found via Anne Bennett and BBC.

Images: Bede’s World main entrance, outside view via Bede’s World. Other photographs by Eppu Jensen