Skip over navigation
Brown Home Brown Home Brown University Cogut Center for the Humanities Brown Home Brown Home Brown University

2006-07 Humanities Research Groups

"Exhibiting Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic Jerusalem "

Sponsor: Cogut Center for the Humanities

Primary Coordinator: Katharina Galor, Visiting Assistant Professor, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, Brown University

Research Group Participants: Steven Lubar, Professor, American Civilization, Brown University

Ian Straughn, Visiting Assistant Professor, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, Brown University

Carolyn Swan, Graduate Student, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, Brown University

Gregg Gardner, Graduate Student, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, Brown University

Kate Marino, Graduate Student, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, Brown University

Gina Borromeo, Curator of Ancient Art, RISD Museum, Rhode Island School of Design

This research group will convene on a bi-monthly basis during the spring semester 2007 to discuss the thematic parameters of a traveling exhibit on Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic Jerusalem to take place in 2010.

The main goals for the semester will be a) to determine the venues of the exhibit; b) to establish a preliminary list of objects and educational support material to be included; c) to design the catalogue format and content; and d) to identify additional grant and funding sources for the show. By the end of the semester, each of the participating researchers will deliver a first draft for a chapter to be featured in the exhibit catalogue.

The exhibition entitled Ancient Jerusalem: People and Places (working title) will open at the RISD Museum in 2010 and travel to two other venues, one in the Midwest and one on the West Coast. While the general public is keenly aware of the political conflicts past and present surrounding Jerusalem, this exhibition will explore what is generally not known to the public, namely, the lives of its residents – the Jews, pagans, Christians and Muslims who lived in the ancient city from the Roman to the Early Islamic Periods, from the first century BCE (capture of the city by the Roman general Pompey) to 1099 CE (Crusader conquest). The objects and written materials used and produced by these diverse peoples will be assembled to create a richly layered picture of their secular and religious lives.

During the proposed meetings the Humanities Research Group will (1) define the parameters of the project; (2) refine the pre-selected themes (Everyday Life; Beliefs, Traditions and Ceremonies; Death and Burial); (3) plan supporting explicatory and educational materials (e.g., the didactic labels, text panels, architectural reconstructions, possible audio guide and interactive computer component); and (5) plan the exhibition catalogue and educational programs.

The planned discussions will build upon the most current scholarship. Various general and comprehensive publications will be used as informative starting points, complemented by excavation reports, museum collection catalogues, exhibition catalogues, and more specialized research dealing with subjects such as the domestic sphere and daily life.

Whereas the noted publications will serve as a basis for the bi-monthly meetings, the planned exhibition will also reach out to the general public. This will be achieved by focusing on a personal and intimate view of the ancient city’s inhabitants. Existing written sources about Jerusalem and life within it will be augmented by objects from the city and surrounding area. The intent is to bring to life the written narrative of the people who lived in and visited the city, such as its rulers, religious leaders, residents, pilgrims, tourists and chroniclers, by gathering and displaying the objects that they produced and used.

Ancient Jerusalem will follow the model of the NEH-funded exhibition Antioch: The Lost Ancient City, organized by the Worcester Art Museum (2000). The combination of the choice of objects of different media, the way objects were placed within the exhibit halls – some incorporated into architectural reconstructions and others freestanding – and the variety and range of the associated didactic material ensured that the once-vibrant ancient settlement of Antioch came back to life. Various components of other exhibitions with excavated material from archaeological sites, such as Magna Graecia: Greek Art from South Italy and Sicily (2002) organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art, in which the object groupings enhanced not only the individual objects’ aesthetic qualities, but also their meanings, and Pompeii: Stories from an Eruption (2005) organized by the Field Museum in Chicago, in which the archaeological contexts for some objects were painstakingly reconstructed in the display, will be incorporated into the exhibition. Unlike Cradle of Christianity, the currently traveling exhibition organized by the Israel Museum, The RISD Museum’s Ancient Jerusalem exhibition will devote equal attention to paganism and all three monotheistic traditions.

To expand upon the areas of specialization of the Research Group participants, a one-day meeting with additional experts will help to explore the discussed topics from a variety of viewpoints and ensure an even more balanced approach.