The Field Museum obtained its name in honor of Marshall Field, its first benefactor. The Field Museum also known as Field Museum of Natural History is located at the downtown Chicago, in Illinois USA. In the Museum, the different collections displayed here reveal diversified cultures throughout the world. While all of us deal with common concerns in life, different communities have different ways of responding to these concerns. The response each community takes depends on their history, environment and creativity (Carbonell, 2004). When these three forces collide with human inventiveness whether individually or collectively, they form a culture. Culture affects everything in life from the choices people make, the clothes they wear, the type of government they form, the shape of their houses the among other things.
In this discussion, I will focus on three different cultures I found displayed in the Field Museum. I will discuss on the cultures of the African continent specifically on the ancient Egypt permanent exhibits section. In this section, we find the secret tombs, the marshes and the mummies. The exhibition features a tomb found in Egypt many years ago where visitors can enter, also on display are twenty-three human mummies and other mummified animals. The chapel from the original tomb of Unis Ankh, the son of Pharaoh is the most popular exhibit in the section as well as a shrine to the cat Goddess Bastet. The other culture will be that of the Native Americans exhibition, that is, the Eskimos and Northwest Coast Indians living in the artic. I want to find out how their environment affects their two unique cultures. In this exhibition known as ‘The Ancient Americas’, the galleries are organized in a revealing way which is unique around the isolated cultures. In these galleries, the changes that cultures have developed over time are on display, from hunting to farming to being creative enough to form new artistic expressions forming mighty empires. Fantastic reconstructions together with more than 2000 artifacts, dozens of videos and interactive displays portraying the inventiveness these ancient people had in solving the challenges they faced at that time. The third culture that caught my attention is the Asia and Pacific exhibition where exhibits like China, Halls of Jade, The Art Lacquer of Japan, Pacific Spirits, Maori Meeting House: a carved structure that has a beloved ancestor embodied, Tibet; a section with items relating to art and items of religion of people living in Asia among other things.
Comparing the ancient America exhibition artifacts with that of Asians we can easily depict how these two cultures dealt with their major concerns in life. Most of the artifacts describe what kind of environment they were living in, their history, their creativity and their religious beliefs. The ingenuous tools found in the Ancient Americas exhibition describe how they survived the harsh climates and their means of survival in terms of food and shelter. The Section contains hundreds of sophisticated stone spear points they used to bring down mastodoms and other ice age mammals. Replicas of pots, baskets, and grind maize on stone metate, portray the life of the Americans who evolved to become farmers. The Moche Pottery Collection, which described how the Native Americans went on evolving and being creative to form empires, this collection is a sign of their creativity. The religious artifacts found in the collection show their religious beliefs. The Aztec Sun Stone Replica the most famous artifacts are in honor of Aztec understanding of the universe and a sign of their achievements as a community. Asians artifacts just as Native Americans have their artifacts that portray their culture and religious beliefs.
Asians believed in value like class and beauty. Their artifacts such as China, Halls of Jade, and The Art Lacquer of Japan represented class, prosperity and power (Burling, 1953). Pacific spirits and Tibet displayed their religious values while Maori Meeting House displayed their love for their ancestors who they owed their culture. Both Asians and Native Americans artifacts, described their creativity, the environment they were living in and their historical backgrounds. That is what their ancestors believed in both the social values and religious values. The main contrasting values in these two culture exhibits are that, Asians mostly portray prosperity and class meaning that they had a wealthy background. Native Americans on the other hand portrayed their means of survival. Their artifacts describe their evolvement from hunting to building empires, and how they overcame the environmental barriers.
We have learnt that three common factors that lead to culture diversity are the environment, history and creativity. The diversification of the exhibits that these three culture displayed is a proof of what environment they lived in, what their historical background was and how creative and innovative to the things that surrounded them. The environment we are in presents us with challenges and constraints and we use all the means possible to solve our constraints using the resources that are available to us. The availability of these resources depend on the geography and climate of the location we are in, the population density, the infrastructure and the how accessible the materials, commodities and the outside technology are. The Native Americans artifacts mainly erupted on the environment they lived in. In an effort to provide food to their families in their land that had harsh weather conditions they made the sophisticated stone spear points. The replicas of pots, baskets were because they were farmers and they had to introduce them to carry their yield.
History and accumulation of past events is another factor that leads to culture diversification. The way we perceive our past actions and interactions affect how we respond to the world in the future. According to history, Asians were elegant people who were very keen on social status. They believed in ornaments that gave them a sign of prosperity. Their women believed in the best quality kitchenware. This is the reason the objects they used in their daily lives and ceremonies like kitchenware, puppets, pottery, music instruments among others were China. Their Jewelries were made of diamonds and gemstones. Their attachment to the halls of jade has a historical significance. Chinese believed that its warm luster symbolized kindness, its translucency a sign of loyalty. The sound it made when gently struck was a sign of wisdom and its purity symbolized integrity. Due to this history, all the generations preceding its discovery always believed in this exhibit as an honor.
Creativity is probably the most contributor of the culture shape. The unique ability that human beings possess that allows them to communicate imaginatively through symbols has made cultures to respond differently towards their common needs. The evolving history and the ever-changing environments have made humans adapt and create ways of solving the problems they encounter due to these changes. From these creative and very imaginative minds human developed genius and creative artifacts. These crafted artifacts have symbolic meaning to the Culture they represent. The Aztec Sun Stone Replica and The Moche Pottery collection represent the creativity of the Native Americans (Townsend, 1992). Pacific spirits, Tibet, and Jade among other exhibits represent the creativity of the Asians.
In conclusion, the visit to the Field Museum was very successful. I visited different culture exhibits and discovered the origin of their common artifacts. Though the culture exhibits were different in shape, style, and features, I discovered they all erupted from the need for humans to respond to their major concerns of food, shelter and better living. The exhibits were a reflection of the environment, the history and the creativity of the culture concerned.
Burling, A. H. Chinese art. Chicago, IL: Studio Publications, in association with Crowell, 1953
Carbonell, B. M. Museum studies: an anthology of contexts. Chicago, IL: Wiley-Blackwell, 2004
Townsend, R. F. The Ancient Americas: art from sacred landscapes. Chicago, IL: Art Institute of Chicago, 1992