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"Grass Routes: Pathways to Eurasian Cultures" exhibition a "remarkable collaboration"
written by Susan Meikle, news and public information
The exhibition includes “Ancient Bronzes of the Asian Grasslands,” from the collections of the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation in New York City. It consists of 85 bronze pieces, comprising personal decorations and equipment of the horse-riding Steppe Nomads from the thirteenth century BCE to the first century CE and ancient Chinese bronze vessels.
The idea of bringing the Sackler bronzes to the museum began when Dan Prior, assistant professor of history, met the Sackler Foundation curator Trudi Kawami in 2007 and learned of the traveling exhibition. He has since lent support between Kawami and the museum.
Shaiman also began working with faculty and students to develop the broad exploration of Eurasian cultures. Their efforts culminated in the “Grass Routes” exhibition. The exhibition "is the result of a remarkable collaboration," explained Robert Wicks, director of the museum.
“The exhibition was thoroughly collaborative, involving five departments, two schools and lots of involvement across campus,” Prior said.
Prior is an expert on the history, cultures and folklore of Central Asia. He has lived in China, Japan, and for three and a half years in Kirghizstan, before and after its independence from the Soviet Union.
“Rare opportunity for non-art majors”
Student Contributions to Galleries I and II
"It is important for the Art Museum, as an educational resource for Miami University, to establish interdisciplinary opportunities for students to engage in our exhibitions,” Shaiman said. “ In general, students involved in the development of exhibitions are art history majors. ‘Grass Routes’ offered a rare opportunity for non-art majors from several departments to play a vital role in conceptualizing, researching and writing the content of this exhibition."
Several students had the opportunity to participate on the exhibition planning team and contribute to the exhibition. Prior is mentor to two undergraduate students who expressed interest in working on the exhibition when Prior mentioned it during his Eurasian Nomads and History course last fall.
• Patrick Jacobs, senior history major, received a 2012 undergraduate summer scholars award to help research and write the Gallery Guide. Read more about Jacobs.
• Colin McKinstry, a junior anthropology and history double major, conducted an independent study project with Prior on the ice tombs of the Scythians (southern Siberian region) and the tattoos on the frozen mummies. He also contributed panels to the exhibition in Galleries I and II. Read more about McKinstry.
Evan Hayes, a 2011 graduate with majors in classics and philosophy and a minor in history (and the 2011 Goldman Prize winner), and Greta Smith, graduate student in English, created an interactive digital map and translation (from Latin) of a map of Eurasia, from Phillip Johann von Strahlenberg’s An Historico-Geographical Description of the North and Eastern Parts of Europe and Asia (1738). It is located in Gallery I, “Exploring Eurasia.”
History graduate student Timmothy Winstead, also advised by Prior, provided curating support for Gallery I, “Exploring Eurasia.”
Senior botany major Radhika Ahluwalia also contributed to the exhibition (Gallery II, “Life in the Grasslands”).
Value of Multiple approaches
Contributions to the “Grass Routes” exhibition came from a variety of other institutions, including, along with the Sackler Foundation: the Lloyd Library and Museum; the Russian Academy of Sciences; Special Collections, King Library; and the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia, among others.
“The institutions and individuals, faculty, students and staff, each contributed their unique disciplinary perspective to ensure its success and demonstrates the value of bringing multiple approaches to bear on a single topic," Wicks said.
“The exhibition is a wonderful compliment to the Art Museum's extensive collection of more than 16,000 objects from around the world," Shaiman said.
The museum is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and noon-5 p.m. Saturday. The “Grass Routes” exhibition runs through Dec. 8.
To learn about more programming in conjunction with the exhibition, go the exhibition website.