BM Visit to Guatemala | Andrea Terrón (ITP 2017)
Written by Andrea Terrón, ITP Fellow 2017, Guatemala
Google Arts & Culture and the British Museum have recovered the legacy of Alfred Maudslay with 21st century technology. ‘Now, visitors from around the world can explore the Maya’s rich heritage online and learn about their achievements in art, architecture, astronomy, mathematics and language.’
Visit Preserving Maya Heritage, the British Museum and Google’s Maya Project here.
During the ITP programme at the British Museum in 2017, Claudia Zehrt (Project Curator: Google Maya Project) gave us an explanation of what this project entailed, and we got to scan Maudslay’s casts (and some of our colleagues’ legs, too), trying the scanner with the computer program that records the images.
The project includes virtual visits to many archaeological sites located in the low and highlands of Guatemala, 3D scans of stone monuments and other sections about culture, Maya writing, ethnographic material, preservation and exhibitions. I was excited to see the final product and, most importantly, see the response of the archaeological community.
The launch of the project in Guatemala was in December 2017. There were high-profile academics, politicians, ministry authorities and ambassadors from different countries. Jago Cooper (Curator: Americas) and Claudia Zehrt gave a brief presentation of the project and they talked about Maudslay as a witness of all the greatness of Maya civilisation. They said that ‘the pictures and casts of Maudslay, transported across the Atlantic, brought a new understanding of a society, that shaped one of the greatest cities of the world.’
This initiative makes me think of one of the things I love about museums: well-preserved collections for the use of the public. Museums have collected material for a long period of time and we learn from them by using virtual catalogues and visiting permanent and temporary exhibits, but now, we can see what such a well-preserved collection can teach us and how far we can go. With time, technology will be able to put all the world’s cultures in our hand. Well, it’s already there!
After the launch, we took a small trip through some communities over the highlands of Guatemala, starting with Chichicastenango in Quiché and later Panajachel in Sololá. We managed to see some textiles, handcrafted masks and wooden effigies. I finally found the evil eye bracelets and seeds I was eager to show you all during our ITP Exhibition Proposal Project. Raneen and Zeina, I found them!
The result of this project is the perfect introduction to Guatemala: I invite you all to visit my country. Thank you for this opportunity Claudia, Kate Jarvis (Project Curator: Google Maya Project) and Jago! It was wonderful to understand more of your work and to see what great collections can give us.