Museum Dance Off 2

When you work at a museum you sometimes do strange things like… participate in a dance video competition hosted by Twenty-eight museums have entered the competition, including the NCMA. (The other museums are from Canada, the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and even Mongolia!)  Watch the trailer.

The reason I am mentioning this competition is that I’m actually in the video!!! (Not surprisingly, the staff members who participated are normally the ones who hit the dance floor at the Museum Christmas party!) We had great fun filming and the resulting video is quite amusing (if I may say so myself). You’ll see me lead a tour around the galleries, having fun and dancing… although we’re just grooving to Kool and the Gang. Don’t expect any ballroom dancing moves on my part… not this time! (For those who don’t know, ballroom dancing is one of my hobbies.)  You can view the video below:

 NCMA Museum Dance Off 2 Video

I hope you’ll vote for us!  Voting starts on Monday April 20 and for this first round you will be able to vote for our video on, and only on, April 22, starting at 8am EDT (UTC-04:00). We’re competing against another American museum, a Canadian museum and an Australian heritage complex. To cast your vote, all you have to do is go to

Thank you in advance for your encouragement and your vote!


Gardens in ancient Egypt

This weekend was the Weinberg Lecture of Egyptology, held at the Museum once a year. Around 180 people came out on this lovely North Carolina spring Sunday (that would be the equivalent of a lovely Québec summer day) to hear Danish Egyptologist Dr. Lise Manniche speak about gardens in ancient Egypt.

Dr. Lise Manniche visiting the Egyptian galleries at the NCMA.

Dr. Lise Manniche visiting the Egyptian galleries at the NCMA.

It was a great lecture with fabulous illustrations found on temple or tomb walls of what Egyptians planted in their gardens.  The lecture played very well with the theme of my Egyptology seminar and the recent Art in Bloom event.  Evidently, Lise likes flowers and plants very much so today I took her to the Raulston Arboretum near the NCMA and we also walked the trails in the Museum Park. It was a glorious day, being outside was wonderful.

It was great fun spending a weekend with a fellow Egyptologist…

Turin’s revamped Egyptian Museum

On April 1, the Egyptian Museum in Turin revealed its revamped galleries after 5 years of partial closure. Its gallery spaces have doubled and the collection is now presented in state-of-the-art displays. You can read about the new installation here, here and here. Each of the articles has different images.

Now, I suppose I will have to drop by on my next visit to Italy and take new photos!  You may recall that I included a page dedicated to the Museo Egizio (Turin) in the Photo Diary almost a year ago.

Egyptology Seminar 2015

I was rather quiet this week as I decided to stay away from my computer and rest after spending an entire month working on my Egyptology seminar. And by an entire month, I mean working every weekday—often late in the evening—and every weekend. When I work on PowerPoint presentations, I need to devote good chunks of time to them, not just a few minutes here and there, in between meetings and other little tasks. This means working when there are fewer colleagues around and/or not even signing into one’s email account (which normally results in receiving phone calls from colleagues when you don’t respond to urgent messages).

The theme of this year’s seminar was daily life in ancient Egypt as depicted on tomb walls from the Old Kingdom to the early New Kingdom (Eighteenth Dynasty until the reign of Amenhotep III, after which decorative schemes change significantly). There is more than meets the eye on those decorated tomb walls! I prepared four different lectures focusing on this theme, starting with the construction of a tomb. (Can’t decorate a tomb if you don’t have a tomb!) We looked at what goes on at a nobleman’s estate, family life and personal affairs, and the relationship between the Egyptians and their environment, specifically related to fauna. (The Egyptians were very keen observers of nature and this is illustrated in their tombs.) I did not explore Egypt’s flora as this will be the topic of the Weinberg Lecture of Egyptology next week.

The day-long seminar included an Egypt-inspired lunch and a baklava reception, where a lovely tea and hibiscus syrup concoction was also served. There even was a flower at the bottom of the cup! Quite delicious! I believe it was the signature drink for the Art in Bloom event mentioned in previous posts.

I went home rather tired at the end of the day; however, I was happy that the participants really enjoyed themselves and want to do it again next year… with a different theme, of course! Now, I’m taking advantage of the long Easter weekend to charge my batteries…

Chinese Terracotta Army

Today, I’m combining two chronicles—Did You Know? and ARCHAEO-Crush—using one group of artefacts: the Chinese Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.
Did you know that on this day back in 1974 two local farmers in Xi’an came upon this incredible discovery while digging a well?  Archaeologists soon arrived to investigate and the rest is history…

Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di's terracotta army, intended to protect him in the Afterlife. (Photo taken by my Dad during his trip to Xian.)

Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s terracotta army, intended to protect him in the Afterlife. (Photo taken by my Dad during his trip to Xi’an.)

Type: artefact (funerary statuary)
Civilisation: ancient China
Date: 210–209 BCE
ARCHAEO-Crush: I love those terracotta warriors and other figures.  There are so many of them (more than 8000 soldiers, horses, chariots and non-military figures) and remarkably each one has individual features. There aren’t two alike! What I find utterly fascinating (and horrifying) is that the statues were fully painted, but in just a few minutes the pigments dry up and flake away with exposure to the dry air at the time of excavation. After much research, scientists and conservators have been able to consolidate the pigments with polyethylene glycol 200 (PEG200) and electron beam polymerization. I find conservation absolutely fascinating… You may have hear of PEG before as it is also used in the consolidation of water-logged wooden artefacts like Viking ships.
Bucket list status:  I have seen a selection of soldiers, chariots and horses in The First Emperor: China’sTerracotta Army, an exhibition held at the High Museum in Atlanta in 2008-09. I would definitely like to see them again, this time in China.  It’s at the top of my bucket list!
Additional info: UNESCO World Heritage 441
The science geeks interested in learning more about the conservation aspect can read the Getty’s 2010 Conservation of Ancient Sites along the Silk Road (PDF available online, at the virtual library on their website), which features a scientific article (pages 35-39) on the consolidation of the colour pigments of the terracotta army.

Women in Science

Today, I participated in the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation’s Women in Science spring conference, which was held at the Museum.  The GSK Foundation funds and mentors female students enrolled in science programmes in North Carolina.  I gave a tour entitled ‘Ancient Art, New Science: When Curatorial Research Meets Materials Analysis,’ which  was a special tour of the ancient art galleries that focused on the scientific analyses we have been conducting over the last few months.

I was delighted to be asked and I said yes immediately because I feel I owe so much to GSK: I started out at the museum practically 10 years ago as GlaxoSmithKline Curatorial Fellow and GSK later funded position and my research on the Egyptian collection as well as the publication of the catalogue. GSK’s support of the Museum’s curatorial research (conducted by fellows who are ABD doctoral students or recent PhDs) over the years has been tremendous. I’m beyond grateful to GSK…

My tour included Bacchus, which was brought from the conservation lab for this special occasion, Hercules, the Celestial god or hero and the Egyptian Head of a deity.  As you can imagine, I talked about UVF, VIL, IRR, pXRF, marble sampling and thermoluminescence. The participants seem to have greatly enjoyed the visit because I got many interested questions, enthusiastic comments and requests for my business card. A few hours of my time was the least I could do for a foundation that’s been so generous to me and the Museum. It was a fun and enriching day…

Art in Bloom (Greece and Rome)

Continuing with on my floral and spring theme, today I present the four floral arrangements that were in the Classical galleries.  These cover more square footage than the Egyptian space and more floral designs could be incorporated.

Inspired by Aphrodite of Cyrene
Floral design by Carol Inskeep

Orchid arrangement inspired by the marble statue of Aphrodite

Orchid arrangement inspired by the marble statue of Aphrodite

Photographing against a sunny background is not ideal, but you see Aphrodite as an elegant silhouette. Placed behind her was an arrangement of white orchids coming out of glass vessel placed in a square container with blue glass pebbles…   just like the beautiful goddess emerging from the sea! I thought this design very witty and elegant. (My fave of those in the Classical galleries.)

Inspired by Head of a Woman in the Guise of a Goddess
Floral design by Gene Harbaugh

Floral arrangement next to the bronze head of a woman

Floral arrangement next to the bronze head of a woman

This design is well paired with the bronze female head, especially in terms of colour. It is simple, elegant and feminine, but not overly so. A sort of wreath. Yet, the squat bouquet leaves me wanting more…



Inspired by a Greek Hydria
Floral design by Sally Robinson

Arrangement of dried flowers inspired by a water jar (hydria)

Arrangement of dried flowers inspired by a water jar (hydria)

This one left me thoughtful… the dried flowers were an interesting component playing with the earth-tone colours of the ceramics in the gallery.  However, the fact that a hydria is a jar used specifically for carrying water is lost (although the vase was the colour of the seas).



Inspired by Herakles
Floral design by Jinny Marino

Flowers for Herakles

Flowers for Herakles

Interestingly, the use of the anthurium, a plant with a rather phallic red spadix, brings a touch of masculinity to the arrangement. Well, it is inspired by a statue of Herakles, a very burly one at that!  The added metal elements make reference to the Herculean strength of our marble man. Pun intended.  Herakles is the Greek version of Hercules.

I have come to the conclusion that my favourite floral arrangements at Art in Bloom were simple with crisp and elegant vertical lines; very contemporary looking.  Enjoy the arrival of spring!