Friday, July 16, 2010

it's a man's world even after death

Beirut Museum is not a large museum although its artifacts are impressive. About 1300 are exhibited from a collection of 100,000. How things are displayed and what gets displayed are things that I look for when I visit a museum. This is an area that we will be exploring in my upcoming winter course on critical museum studies. In the Beirut National Museum , objects are categorized into different time/historical eras such as Prehistory, Iron Age, Roman times and so on. I noticed that the section on Islamic artifacts was miniscule. I wonder whose decision this was? Obviously, this is a serious problem as there are many, many artifacts from the times of Islamic rule. The ROM in Toronto has a larger section of Islamic artifacts-and I was disappointed in their display on the Middle East. But here!? Good god/dess.

God is right. I also noticed that although there were numerous outstanding artifacts related to Astarte, Venus and other female goddesses, women, or fertility icons -- including some amazing thrones of Astarte -- in one section of the museum, the descriptive text on the wall explaining things used the word gods or god and focused entirely on a male history. This in the land where the Goddess ruled! Talk about re-writing history with language as the artifacts stare you in the face with their presence! I have to go back and take a photo of that text; it's been in the back of my mind making me angry. In my class we will discuss whose stories are left out and why.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

off all places to eat a manoushe pie!

I brought the wrong cable to upload the photos from my camera onto my laptop so I will have to rely on online images. I brought my son's camera to Lebanon but my camera's cable and they are not a match. The above image is an old street scene, a postcard from 1930 of the Beirut National Museum, where I went yesterday.

The street outside the museum today is a mess of cars and congested traffic; the Roman columns are still outside the front, but now behind wrought iron, fencing it off. The trees behind them are taller, but strangely, not by much. My toddler nephew got hungry just after we bought our tickets to go in, so we stepped outside to see what we could find to eat. My husband ran across the street -- or should I say, dodged traffic and endangered his life getting to the other side to pick up some manoushe sandwiches and fresh squeezed orange juice from a shop we spied across the road.

So, like vagabonds we munched our sandwiches outside the palatial columns of the museum as rows of schoolchildren filed in and drivers honked their horns and sped by. I noticed someone was growing corn in the small plot of land on the side of the building where all sorts of unrestored ancient artifacts lie scattered on the ground under the scorching sun.

After sating our bellies and checking for flecks of stray zaatar on the teeth (inevitable to eating manoushe pies), we went inside into the coolness.

The museum was co-designed by architects Antoine Selim Nahasco and Pierre Leprince Ringuet (these images are from the Nahasco site). The museum is also featured on Lebanese currency.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

the visit I missed last time

Tomorrow in the morning I will be visiting the Beirut National Museum. I am in northern Lebanon and hope the traffic from Tripoli to Beirut isn't unbearable as it tends to be.