A Journey of Interpretation – Some Thoughts About the Object in Focus Project (Catalina Cavelier Adarve, ITP 2019, Colombia)

Written by Catalina Cavelier Adarve, Head of Intangible Heritage, Cultural Heritage Institute of Bogota (ITP 2019, Colombia)

When we started the ITP programme in July, the Object in Focus project seemed far away. Now, only one week away from the reception day, we’re starting to feel a mixture of pressure and excitement. Certainly, the idea of working around a single object that is not related to my country or culture has proved to be both challenging and interesting. It has been a good opportunity to combine my previous experience with the skills and knowledge gained throughout the programme, not only regarding curatorial or design skills, but also working collaboratively with a person you are just starting to know.

Before getting into further detail, I should say that my partner for the project, Alsu Akhmetzyanova from Uzbekistan, has proved to be a great match. We have different backgrounds and opinions, but we are both smart, determined and very active women. This, I believe, has made the process very rich and interesting.

Soul Houses from Ancient Egypt, British Museum collection.

After our object was revealed, Alsu and I started working. We faced the task of researching and interpreting a Soul House, a pottery model of a house that used to be left outside some tombs in Ancient Egypt as an offering. This was a way to make sure the dead would have a place to rest and enough food to sustain themselves in the afterlife. With little information, we started reading and researching until we could define a concept for the exhibition. This was no easy task for there are endless ways in which you can interpret a single object. Many ideas were in the air, from sustainable architecture to everyday life, funerary practices, ideas about death and many others. After some thought and discussion, and also some support from Ela, Louise and Danielle, our Object in Focus mentors from the Egypt and Sudan department, we narrowed down our concept and managed to define an inspiring and interesting approach: food and life! 

With this idea in mind, we left London and spent ten wonderful days in other partner museums. From Belfast, where I spent my placement, to Glasgow, where Alsu did, some long-distance communication took place and we managed to work on our panel and label text. Now, we face the challenge of designing our poster and panel, which means facing and trying to tame Photoshop!

Soul Houses from Ancient Egypt, British Museum collection.

The schedule is tight, but I’m sure we will meet the deadline and develop other inspiring ideas that we have created to present during the Object in Focus reception. I have included enough spoilers in this text, so let’s just leave it at this: you will find provision for your soul!