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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Museum Feast

HistoriumHis­to­ri­um
curat­ed by Richard Wilkin­son and Jo Nel­son
Big Pic­ture Press, 2015

by Vic­ki Palmquist

In a large, folio-sized book, the cura­tors of His­to­ri­um present a print­ed-page trip through a muse­um, grouped by cul­tures and described in detail so you can under­stand what you are see­ing with­out being rushed along by the crowd. Much like those rentable muse­um audio tapes or the plac­ards on the wall, it’s an enhanced expe­ri­ence of the arti­facts. Unless you are a well-trav­eled muse­um habitué, many of these items will be unfa­mil­iar to you.

There are arti­cles from cul­tures all over the world over a great length of time, rep­re­sent­ed for con­text by a time­line. From one mil­lion years ago, a Stone Age hand ax to the ear­ly nine­teenth cen­tu­ry, a stone stat­ue from Poly­ne­sia, trav­el­ing to Melane­sia, The Lev­ant, Ancient Islam, The Hopewell, and the realm of the Vikings.

This muse­um is open 247, with­out the need for sign­ing a field trip per­mis­sion slip or pay­ing for park­ing.

Historium Ancient Egypt

On page 35, a beau­ti­ful­ly dec­o­rat­ed jug from the Pueblo is explained in this way: “pot­tery skills and designs were passed from moth­er to daugh­ter. Each Pueblo set­tle­ment would try to keep the loca­tion of its clay deposit a secret, to pre­vent it from being plun­dered … they often refer to the clay as female.” This kind of detail pro­vides depth for our under­stand­ing of the world.

On page 50, there is a dou­ble-head­ed ser­pent mosa­ic from the 15th or 16th cen­tu­ry, “intend­ed to both impress and ter­ri­fy the behold­er.” We learn that “the crafts­men best known for their turquoise mosaics were not Aztecs but Mix­tecs …” which results in a tan­gen­tial search to find out more about the Mix­tecs, just as a bricks-and-mor­tar muse­um would do.

I’m not sure I under­stand why the arti­facts are pre­sent­ed against dark­ly-col­ored back­grounds … some­times the con­trast makes it hard­er to study the items, but over­all this is a book that will sat­is­fy the curi­ous in your fam­i­ly or class­room. Like all good muse­ums, it is the begin­ning to a jour­ney of dis­cov­ery.

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