“Reproduction of a 6th Century BCE artifact at British Museum”. This is quite possibly any museum connoisseur’s nightmare. There is nothing worse than hiking all the way over to the other side of the city to see some old stuff, only to find that you’re older than most of the objects in the room. Whilst I was disappointed by last year’s Tutankhamen exhibit and its cleverly deceptive marketing (Tutankhamen wasn’t even there!), this was definitely not true of the new Mesopotamia exhibit hosted by the Melbourne Museum.
Having studied 1st Year Archaeology, evidently I’m an expert in all things old, or so I told my mother, my companion for the day. Audio commentary at the ready, I stepped through a time machine into one of the most interactive exhibits I have ever experienced. Jewels glittered in the dim mood lighting, supposedly ancient-sounding elevator music hummed around the clusters of pushy patrons, and large clay pots and tablets lined the walls.
Computer technology allowed us to study details of the artwork, explaining the truly intricate craftsmanship that is honestly astounding to behold. Colour was poured into the dull brown of the clay and animations brought the static actions to life. It was magical.
The audio commentary provided not only information about the artifacts in front of me, but a complete history of the culture of those who lived in Mesopotamia: their homes, their religion, celebrations and customs. Finishing with the Tower of Babel, we were able to see historical representations of the unproven first skyscraper, and learn about its alleged origins in the Bible and ancient myths of Sumer.
Months into the exhibition’s run, I still struggled to get close enough to the objects. Like a never-ending game of Pac-Man, I was jostled and bumped, winding my way through the maze of knowledge. Punctuating the general murmur of discussion was a young boy of about ten who began to spout facts to his younger brother. His knowledge and interest in this ancient world was truly inspiring, and slightly restored my faith in the younger generations.
For young and old, seeing this exhibition is definitely a necessity. A day spent in the past, witnessing the feats achieved without modern technology and pursuing knowledge for the sake of knowledge is always going to be a day well spent. Then, we may come back to the future a little bit wiser and appreciative of our origins.