Catching Up With: Manuela Lehmann, AES Department Rep

Written by Manuela Lehmann, Project Curator: Amara West and ITP Department Representative for Ancient Egypt and Sudan

Back to Normal Working Life at the BM

After the ITP finished in August, life in the BM did get a bit quieter and I had some time to concentrate on my work for the Amara West project in Sudan. I went with Valentina Gasperini (Project Curator: Amara West) and Neal Spencer (Keeper: Ancient Egypt and Sudan) to Munich for a three day conference at the beginning of September and despite the horrible rainy weather, we had a great time exchanging our results from Amara West with other colleagues working in Sudan.

After that we started to prepare the next season in Amara West, which will begin January 3rd 2018 and will last for about two months, until the beginning of March. In the next weeks we have to start organising all the usual administrative things for starting a season, like finding out exactly when people are coming, booking flights, getting visas and thinking about what to bring with us and what still needs buying, such as working tools (callipers, lamps etc.). As we will have a study season, we will be a relatively small team of about maximum 15 people focusing on the objects left in the storage magazines nearby the ancient site. We are also preparing lists of what information we still need from objects in the store rooms and prepare lists of objects that still need to be photographed, drawn or studied.

Visiting Museums in Japan

I was very lucky to get a break of three wonderful weeks for my holidays, when my boyfriend Chris and I went to Japan. We travelled from Tokyo via Mount Fuji, to the area of the Japanese Alps, to Takayama and Kanazawa, then on to Kyoto and Osaka, with a short stop-over in Nara and Koya San. After that we went on to Himeji, Hiroshima, Fukuoka and Nagasaki.

Japan is a very impressive country and in some respects, they seem to be ahead of Europe by 200 years. Everything is very clean (often without any bins around, as people take their garbage home with them) and also incredibly well organised. Trains, busses and subways run on time by the minute and whichever site you visit, you will most likely end up with an information flyer with maps and context. Another interesting experience is how smoothly the old traditions are living alongside the modern world of technology. People in general are very friendly in Japan and always try to help, even if you haven’t even asked for help yet!

In the three weeks travelling though Japan, we visited many different museums, from the National Museums of the bigger cities of Tokyo, Kanazawa, Kyoto and Osaka, to local and often private small museums, for example in Takayama.

Museums in Japan are also a bit different to the ones I have experienced in Europe so far. A big thing we found in many of the museums in Japan was reproductions of features like complete bridges, streets and houses: all to scale, with original or rebuilt inventory. Of course this is mainly possible for later time periods, mainly the Edo Period (1603 – 1868), a classical time period often seen as the Golden Age in Japan’s history. You can take off your shoes and enter the buildings to get an idea how it felt to walk through.

Some of the museums had amazing displays of archaeological excavations: for example, the Museum of History of Osaka, which on another floor even had a “hands-on” corner with real excavation tools, a total station, archaeological drawings and replicas of finds like vessels to be puzzled together by the visitor. There is a lot of interaction with replicas in the galleries, letting people get a feeling for the materials or the weight of the objects while handling them. Sometimes the museums have specialists demonstrating things like traditional craft production techniques, allowing people to understand how the objects they see in the vitrines were produced.

As we saw many museums in these three weeks, I will just give a few examples here: