The Oriental Museum may be comparatively small to other museums, but it is filled with treasures seldom found elsewhere. As the Intercultural Forum, we look at not only celebrating existing cultures and traditions, but also the history behind them.
For international students who make the long journey to Durham, it is without doubt that the one thing that they miss the most, yet the one that gives them the most motivation and energy to pursue their studies, is home. After all, isn’t home where our heart truly is? To celebrate our roots, as well as those of others, the UIF along with the Oriental Museum, organised a day of exploring the theme of home through some of the museum’s unique artefacts. Students, parents and children were all invited to see what home life was like in the good old days sans electricity, electronic devices, the internet, and other modern technology that we seemingly cannot live without.
Attendees marvelled at pieces including a Chinese wedding bed, religious idols that are worshipped under Hinduism even today, elegant Japanese tea sets, Egyptian jewellery and even South Korean wedding ducks to signify whether a marriage is in a good place or not. What’s more, the attendees got a peek at the museum’s celebrated Egyptian exhibits which included actual mummies. Since the museum believes in highlighting what was and what is, there were also exhibits from the 21stcentury to show how an idea as old as home is more susceptible to change than we think. There was a short break for tea and refreshments to energise the attendees, especially the little kids who spent their energy paying close attention and marvelling at the exhibits.
The highlight of the day, and undoubtedly the part that all attendees were looking forward to, was handling some of the museums artefacts. Protective gloves were given, making everyone feel like a surgeon holding a person’s life in their hands. Common, yet ancient household pieces including clothing, mirrors, tea kettles and cosmetics were passed around, each having a story of their own. The children particularly loved some of the colourful pieces, which also included soft toys that they would be familiar with. Personally handling the artefacts gave one a connection and better understanding as to how people back then performed the same activities that we perform today, but with limited resources.
All in all, the visit was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone, and it was a learning experience that one could not get from books alone. The UIF eagerly awaits organising its next museum visit!