I lived in London for years and although I liked to visit the British Museum regularly I think I saw about 1/1000th of their vast collection. So I was quite excited to hear that a slice of the museum’s Middle East artefact collection was coming to Melbourne for the Melbourne Museum‘s winter exhibition for 2012, The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia.

My knowledge of ancient history is sketchy and I had to dig back into my primary school projects to remember where Mesopotamia actually was. It’s a region that’s now better known as Iraq and it’s inspiring to learn something positive about the region instead of hearing constant news of war and turmoil. While it can be hard to relate our existence to lives lived in thousands of years ago, we owe a lot to  Mesopotamia – the birthplace of writing, mathematics, astronomy and timekeeping.

The exhibition is split into three sections each exploring a different ancient civilisation – Sumer, Assyria and Babylon. Given the distance between Australia and the UK I was expecting displays of little household items and shards of pottery urns, so I was most impressed with the massive carved stone tablets that have been shipped over for us.

For me the carved stonework was also the most interesting because Melbourne Museum had layered over multimedia video over some the works, bringing to life scenes of battle and explaining how stories unfolded in each part the sculpture.

For families who are visiting the exhibition there are small plaques to engage kids as part of the Family Trail. Gilgamesh, the legendary hero of Mesopotamia, guides kids with questions to ponder and things to look out for in the display cabinets.  I actually think Gilgamesh pointed out some interesting points for adults too!

There are also a few touch-and-feel activities and you can purchase a Kids Audio Guide ($7) for a more multi-modal experience, but overall I think they could have included more ways to engage kids given a lot of the displays were static and required reading explanatory plaques.

And finally, who could resist a fluffy lion from the gift shop!

Giveaway! Thanks to the Melbourne Museum I have a double pass to The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia to give away. All you have to do is leave a comment and the winner will be drawn next Friday 11 May. Good luck!

The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia, Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson Street, Carlton 13 11 02

Daily, 4 May – 7 Oct 2012
10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Thursday evenings, until 9:00 PM
Adults $24, concession $16, children $14, school groups $10 per student

Thank you to Melbourne Museum for inviting me to view the exhibition. 

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