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Posts tagged with 'world cultures'

A visitor from Easter Island

16 May 2011 by Lisa

We’ve just got some news that a mysterious visitor will soon be arriving at World Museum! Here’s our Curator of Oceanic Collections, Lynne Heidi Stumpe, to tell us about him…


Dark grey stone statue of a head and torso.

Image courtesy and copyright Trustees of the British Museum

An interesting new visitor is arriving at World Museum this evening. Moai Hava is just over five feet high, weighs about two and a half tons and is a little bit rough around the edges. He comes originally from Rapa Nui (Easter Island) but has been staying at the British Museum in London for the last 142 years, along with a larger friend called Hoa Hakananai’a.

All Rapa Nui statues have individual names: ‘moai’ means ‘statue’ or ‘image’ in the Rapanui language and ‘hava’ best translates as ‘to be lost’. Moai Hava is quite a mysterious character. Most moai were carved from volcanic tuff, a relatively soft rock, have a distinctive style and were made to commemorate ancestral chiefs. Moai Hava, however, is one of the few moai made from basalt, a much harder rock and is in a slightly different style. We don’t know exactly why he was made. Read more…

Last stop Sikkim

26 November 2010 by Emma

View down to a pedestrianised street with shops on either side and mountains in the background

View over the Gangtok promenade

My final week of research has brought me to Gangtok, the state capital of Sikkim. Its a marked contrast to Kalimpong, here you are closer to the mountains, despite being in almost tropical jungle. The town is perched on a wooded valley hillside and looks out over rice paddies, that are just being harvested, and two important monasteries, Rumtek and Lingdum. Sikkim is wealthy in comparison to other hill states in India and the place has the feel of an English spa town. My work here will centre on the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology and the State Archive and already the work is going well. Everything stopped for a couple of days as Diwali was celebrated across India.  The Festival of Lights is a time of pujas to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and also a good excuse for families to get together and set off fireworks. These could be seen and heard across the town and for those wanting an early night’s sleep, a very decent pair of earplugs was essential. Read more…

Moving up to the Himalayas

12 November 2010 by Emma

Monastery in the hills

Bhutia Busty Monastery with Kanchendzonga in the background.

Following the mad panic that always ensues at the end of a bout of archive fever, I managed to complete a good chunk of my research in the Delhi archives and have now moved up to the Northeast of India and to the mountains of West Bengal and Sikkim.

The work here is a little different in that I’m now trying to find the descendants of some of the men I have been reading about in the archives and also get a feel for the area Charles Bell worked in. My first stop was Darjeeling, where I spent a couple of days visiting places where Bell and the 13th Dalai Lama had stayed and visiting a photography studio that had a number of interesting historical photograph taken at the time Bell was there. The area is surrounded and dominated by the Khangchendzonga range, this is the third highest mountain in the world and as the temperatures have dipped for winter, there is a good covering of snow on the mountain tops. This is the perfect time of year to visit as the day are warm, and the views, as you can see, are very clear out to the mountains.  Read more…

Three weeks in the Delhi Archives

11 November 2010 by Emma

Photo of high rise building

National Archives of India, New Delhi

Working through the vast archives of the National Archives of India is a lonely business. Very few people in the world get as excited as you do about the details and stories you find and so when elation strikes having found information on a Tibetan man you knew very little about, it’s not possible to run round the archives telling everyone you meet about your exciting discovery. 

The disease only found amongst archival researchers is commonly known as ‘archival fever’ and there is no known cure. I’ve had several of those experiences during the past three weeks of intensive scanning of catalogues and documents from the Foreign and Political records of British India in the early 20th century. It is here that I have gained a much clearer picture of Sir Charles Bell, his networks and his personal commitment to Tibet. Read more…

Two weeks in Dharamsala

10 November 2010 by Emma

Photo of townhouses and cars

Tibet Museum in Dharamsala

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am currently in India undertaking research on the Tibet collections held at National Museums Liverpool. Upper Dharamsala or Mcleod Ganj is home to the 14th Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile and it is here that many cultural and governmental institutions were rebuilt after 1959 when many Tibetans including the Dalai Lama came to this small hill station to seek refuge.

Here you will find government offices, libraries and museums and a focus for many Buddhist pilgrims from around the world; the Tsuklagkhang.  In exile the Tsuklagkhang has become a focus for Tibetan Buddhist practice and in many ways acts as a replacement for the Jokhang, the seventh century temple which sits at the very heart of Lhasa in Tibet and is considered the most important Buddhist site for Tibetans. 

The Tsuklagkhang complex is home not only to the Dalai Lama’s official residence, but also the Tibet Museum, which tells through personal stories, photographs and video installations the events that changed individual Tibetans lives and choices and sacrifices those people made to reach India. I was impressed with the way those individual stories acted as symbols for the stories of many Tibetans who had made those journeys and unlike most museums I visit I read every word!  Read more…

Wading through the archives in India

15 October 2010 by Emma

View of mountain with rainbow in the sky

A rainbow after the monsoon rains.

It has been over two weeks since I set out for India to undertake research on the Tibet collections held at National Museums Liverpool. It has been a very busy couple of weeks.

I began my research in New Delhi and the National Archives of India. Here, there are held hundreds of thousands of records relating to the British Empire in India. Of particular interest to me are the many hundreds of records relating to Sir Charles Bell, a colonial officer based in Sikkim, a small Himalayan state on the Northeast frontiers of India tucked in between Nepal and Bhutan.  It was from here that Bell worked as a diplomatic agent for the British Indian government developing and maintaining relationships with Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet. During the twenty years he worked in the area he learnt the Tibetan language, understood, more than most, Tibetan culture and protocols and became a friend of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso. Read more…

Researching Liverpool’s Tibet collection

23 September 2010 by Emma

A pale brick built building with steps leading up the entrance. Its pagaoda style roof is decorated with gilt Tibetan Buddhist embelms

The Norbulingka, near Dharamsala

Tomorrow, I fly to New Delhi, India… no, not to take part in the Commonwealth Games, but to begin nine week’s of fieldwork which, should result in new research relating to Liverpool’s Tibet collections. Although, I’m the full time Head of Ethnology here at World Museum, I’m also currently undertaking a part-time PhD at the School of Oriental and Africa Studies (SOAS), University of London and so I’m taking time away from the museum to carry out my PhD fieldwork. Read more…

A simple guide to horse packing

25 June 2010 by Emma

woman getting a large model horse out of a box

Getting Biscuit the horse ready for his photo opportunity!

Yes, you have read the title correctly! Here in the Ethnology department we are busily packing lots of objects ready for them to have their photographs taken, before they go on display in the Global City gallery of the Museum of Liverpool.

This isn’t always as easy as it sounds. One of the more tricky objects I’ve had today has been a large brightly decorated enamel horse, which is almost 1 metre long. The horse has a detachable mane (which looks a little bit like a toupe) and tail that all needed packing together to ensure it looks its best in front of the cameras. It turns out there is more than one way to pack a horse, but I decided on a nice simple solution of strapping the horse into a box, making sure it can’t move about while its being transported. You could say, it will be travelling in its own handmade horsebox. Read more…

Youth Volunteers Achieve Bronze Arts Award

3 June 2010 by volunteer

The Volunteers Team would like to send out congratulations to several of our youth volunteers who each passed their Bronze Arts Award last week.

The group of 12 young people (aged 16-25) have all volunteered as part of our Discovery Volunteers project based at World Museum. During this time they met with visitors on gallery and chatted about handling objects, having received lots of prior training from curatorial and education staff.

Our volunteers also attended several Arts Award sessions run by the Volunteers team, including a visit to Plantastic and writing up a project about their Arts Hero or Heroine. Read more…

Volunteers went WILD! at World Museum

19 May 2010 by volunteer

A few weeks back, during the Easter holidays, our wonderful team of Discovery Volunteers were on hand in the World Cultures Gallery at World Museum.

Each of the 24 youth volunteers underwent thorough training with curatorial and education teams and then put their knowledge to good use on gallery with interesting and engaging handling objects.

Our Discovery Volunteers had a brilliant time meeting with thousands of visitors and chatting to them about unusual objects, including Japanese netsuke and Arctic snow goggles. Volunteers provided information on what the object was used for and also the natural material it had been made from. This interest in natural resources is a key feature to reflect the Wild Wild World programme of events at World Museum to support the International Year of Biodiversity. Read more…