Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Installing 'Myanmar - The Golden Land' at Linden Museum, Stuttgart, Germany

On Tuesday 14th October, setting off at 6.30am, I embarked on a journey by truck across Europe to deliver a crate of eight objects from the Pitt Rivers Museum (PRM) collections from Myanmar (Burma) to Linden Museum, Stuttgart for the exhibition 'Myanmar - The Golden Land'. I travelled all day to arrive in Frankfurt late Tuesday evening. After an overnight stop my journey resumed at 9.00am the next morning, arriving in Stuttgart a few hours later. 

The front of Linden Museum, Stuttgart

The exhibition has been two years in the planning by the exhibition curator and head of Asian and South East Asian collections at Linden Museum, Dr Georg Noack. Dr Noack visited Oxford last year to make a selection from the PRM collections. The chosen objects included a zither in the form of a crocodile (1938.34.581) which is displayed in the exhibition with a similar more contemporary zither in the same style. Dr Noack explained to me that whilst contemporary versions of the zither are made and played in Myanmar today the older version makes a more pleasing sound as the wood is carved thinner and the resonator is a better shape.

The PRM zither (1938.34.581) is displayed on the plinth
at the front © Pitt Rivers Museum

Tiles packed at bottom of PRM crate
© Pitt Rivers Museum
Also included in the exhibition from the PRM are four large, and very heavy, ceramic tiles and a carved stone Buddha from the Shwegugyi Temple complex. The temple was built in 1473 by King Dhammazedi as a replica to the temple in India where Buddha attained enlightenment. The temple complex had seven stations around it with paths leading to the centre. The tiles are displayed with other tiles from the same Temple which are ordinarily dispersed among Museum collections all over Europe. 

The weight of the tiles (between 15 - 17 kg each) made the crate which they had to travel in very heavy! Usually the PRM conditions of loan stipulate that the PRM courier should be the only person to handle the PRM collections during installation and de-installation at the loan venue. However, on this occasion given the weight and cumbersome nature of the tiles an exception was made and the Linden conservator kindly helped me to remove the tiles from the crate and into the display cases.  

Tile with glazed green figures with human 
bodies and mouse-like heads, 1892.41.481
© Pitt Rivers Museum

Tiles on display in the gallery © Pitt Rivers Museum

Tile prepared for condition reporting © Pitt Rivers Museum

On a smaller scale we also loaned an ebony box (1890.13.9) used to contain tattooing pigment and tattooing apparatus (1894.27.41). Tattooing was important in Myanmar culture and Myanmar men used to be tattooed from waist to knees. Having tattoos was a sign of manhood. You can read more here.

Box and tattooing apparatus on display © Pitt Rivers Museum
The exhibition design is indeed very golden, the walls of the galleries being covered in gold foil reflecting the gilded temple rooftops of Myanmar. Installation ran very smoothly with the help of the Linden Museum conservation team to condition check the objects with me before installing them in the display cases. The exhibition opened on Friday 18th October and will close on 17th May 2015.

Faye Belsey
Assistant Curator 

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