Today is International Museum Day, a good day to celebrate the stellar work done by museum staff to make museums the places of learning and inspiration that we all know and love. It has been a real privilege to witness this in action through our special writing-themed display at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge (a collaboration between the CREWS project and the Fitzwilliam and British Museums).
If a display on ancient writing sounds interesting, do come and visit – it finishes on 10th June so there is still some time left. You can find it in the Cypriot Gallery at the Fitzwilliam. If coming to Cambridge isn’t easy for you, on the other hand, I hope you can have a sort of virtual tour by looking through our blog posts on each item: the whole list is HERE.
But one thing our virtual tour can’t do, sadly, is to show you what it is like to visit our display within its physical setting. The Cypriot Gallery itself is packed with other wonderful items (Cypriot artefacts often have very distinctive and even unusual styles), and the whole museum is a treasure trove.
If ancient writing is your thing, you can also find lots of other examples if you hunt around the museum – including a few others on coins and small altars (like the one above) or gravetsones in the Cypriot Gallery. Go next door to Greece and Rome and there is another explosion of literacy. Two particular favourites of mine are the Linear B tablet featuring coriander (which was in a different exhibition earlier this year, so unavailable for our display – see the picture below) and the Dolphin Stone from Crete featuring the early Greek alphabet (on which I wrote a blog post a while ago – see the picture to the right). There is also a lot of writing from the Classical Greek and Roman worlds, owing in no small part to increased levels of literacy and new attitudes towards what sorts of objects you can and should write on.
Going beyond to the Near Eastern and Egyptian collections opens up all sorts of other pieces of ancient writing, including an impressive collection of cuneiform tablets and a myriad of items with Egyptian hieroglyphic (not to mention hieratic and demotic) inscriptions. In fact we borrowed a Babylonian cuneiform tablet and a fragment of Egyptian coffin for our display.
So why not celebrate International Museum Day by visiting your favourite or your local museum (or the Fitzwillian if you can!) and hunting for some interesting pieces of ancient writing? Feel free to send us your favourites here or via Twitter (@crewsproject).
~ Pippa Steele (Principal Investigator of the CREWS project)