Iraqi, Syrian guides bring views to Philadelphia museum

1 / 5
Moumena Saradar, left, originally from Syria, guides visitors through the Middle East gallery at Penn Museum, in Philadelphia. (AP)
2 / 5
Part of the Middle East gallery is displayed at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia. The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is opening the galleries to showcase previously undisplayed items, and is making the artifacts more relatable by adding guides native to those parts of the world. (AP)
3 / 5
Abdulhadi Al-Karfawi guides visitors though the Middle East gallery in the Penn Museum, in Philadelphia. The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is in the midst of dramatic renovations, opening new galleries to showcase previously undisplayed items. (AP)
4 / 5
A wall panel of glazed terra-cotta, from a Sufi monastery in Iran, circa 1400 to 1520 BCE, hangs in the Middle East Galleries at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia. (AP)
5 / 5
The headdress and jewelry of Queen Puabi dating to some 4,500 years ago, is displayed at the Middle East gallery in the Penn Museum in Philadelphia. The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is in the midst of dramatic renovations, opening new galleries to showcase previously undisplayed items, telling the stories of those artifacts in more relatable ways and adding guides native to the parts of the world being showcased. (AP)
Updated 20 May 2018
0

Iraqi, Syrian guides bring views to Philadelphia museum

PHILADELPHIA: Three Iraqi natives and a Syrian woman have been enlisted as guides to share a modern cultural perspective with visitors to new Middle Eastern galleries at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia.
The guides intersperse personal stories with historic content as they lead groups through the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s new galleries that tell tales going back 10,000 years.
“People really have trouble understanding and connecting with objects from the ancient past,” said Ellen M. Owens, Penn Museum’s Merle-Smith director of learning programs. “People who come from these places, even in contemporary times, can find a connection with the objects and they provide an interesting window into what it’s like to walk through these magnificent ancient ziggurats or visit a marketplace where traditions go back thousands of years.”
On a recent tour, guide Abdulhadi Al-Karfawi pointed out cuneiform tablets used for accounting, legal text and, in one case, a school boy’s recounting of an argument with his father. Using a blunt reed on a clay tablet, the boy detailed how his father had scolded him, saying “Why are you wasting time? Get to school! Apply yourself at school!“
“I read that and think of my father, who was a tough person who had 15 boys and girls but was on top of everything,” said Al-Karfawi, 40, a former translator for the US Army in Baghdad who settled in the US with his wife and children last year. “Today, as a father, I have the same argument with my kid. I never thought it was happening thousands of years ago.”
In another part of the galleries, Moumena Saradar, 41, paused in front of bronze and brass balance scales and weights dating back to the 1800s. The scales are similar to the ones used at the market near her home in Damascus. Saradar remembers when, as a teenager, her mother taught her to use the scales so she could double check the weights of the fruits and vegetables she’d purchased from a vendor.
“Because if he cheats her, everyone in the town would know,” Saradar said, drawing laughter.
Rusty Baker, executive director of the non-profit advocacy group PA Museums, said programs like the Penn Museum’s Global Guides provide visitors with a richer experience and could help grow audiences. At Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary historic site, former prisoners and guards lead tours, he said, while some tribal museums feature Native Americans guides.
“Museums have been looking at demographics and asking, ‘Who is not here and how do we do something about that?’” Baker said. “These programs are an opportunity to provide a more authentic experience as opposed to a typical tour with a docent who is knowledgeable and passionate but not culturally connected.”
Penn Museum will continue to expand the Global Guides program, Owens said, as it opens two new galleries showcasing Mexico/Central America and Africa in the next year. The museum is working with two organizations that help new immigrants to find trainees.
Part of that training includes discussing provenance and how guides feel about seeing objects from their home countries on display in the US Guides in the current group say they are happy to have pieces of their old homeland in their new one
“Every time I go through the gallery, I feel like this is Iraq,” Al-Karfawi said. “My grandma wore a headpiece like (Queen Puabi). . The dishes are so lovely and they remind me of my sister serving food.”
Saradar said she saw the exhibit as a way to build cultural understanding.
“This is the best thing I could do, being a messenger for my culture. I wouldn’t be able to do that without these objects,” she said. “I’m finding connections between your people and my people.”
After taking Al-Karfawi’s tour, Lalaine Little said she enjoyed hearing his personal story of sleeping on rooftop mattresses with his family during the hottest nights.
“There’s something universal about a family camping out, looking at the stars,” said Little, director of the Pauly Friedman Art Gallery at Misericordia University. “This experience felt very authentic. Sometimes you go on these tours and there are somewhat canned responses (from guides), but his were very heartfelt. He’s not repeating what he learned in training. He’s talking about his heritage because he’s very proud of it.”


Mozart manuscript expected to sell for €500,000

Updated 18 June 2018
0

Mozart manuscript expected to sell for €500,000

  • The 130,000 manuscripts and historical documents that Aristophil had its investors sink their savings into are now being dispersed in auctions over the next six years
  • The manuscripts are part of a vast sell-off by the French state of the collection amassed by the collapsed investment firm Aristophil

PARIS: The first draft of music Mozart wrote for the last act of his opera "The Marriage of Figaro" is expected to sell for half a million euros ($578,000) when it goes under the hammer in Paris.
The "exceptional" manuscript from 1786 which will be auctioned on Wednesday in the French capital comes from the peak of the composer's career in Vienna, the auction house Ader Nordmann said.
Called "Scena con Rondo", Mozart wrote the music initially as a recitative to be sung by Figaro's bride, Susanna, before rejecting it for the now legendary aria, "Deh vieni non tardar".
"These four pages are particularly important because they reveal Mozart at work, struggling to rethink a scene in the final act of the opera," expert Thierry Bodin told AFP.
It will be sold along with another Mozart manuscript, a fragment of a serenade to youth written by young Wolfgang Amadeus when he was only 17.
Probably commissioned by the "chancellor of Salzburg, who was a friend of the Mozart family, to mark the end of his son's studies," according to Bodin, it is expected to make between 120,000 and 150,000 euros.
The manuscripts are part of a vast sell-off by the French state of the collection amassed by the collapsed investment firm Aristophil.
It was shut down in scandal three years ago, taking 850 million euros ($1 billion) of its investors' money with it.
The 130,000 manuscripts and historical documents that Aristophil had its investors sink their savings into are now being dispersed in auctions over the next six years run by Ader Nordmann and three other French auction houses, Artcurial, Drouot Estimations and Aguttes.