COLUMBUS — An exhibit that brings to life the most celebrated trade route in human history has opened at Columbus’ COSI.
The exhibition, “Traveling the Silk Road: Ancient Pathway to the Modern World,” is new to the museum since March.
The opening of this exhibition realizes the second part of a unique collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The partnership began with the opening of the American Museum of Natural History Dinosaur Gallery in November 2017.
“Traveling the Silk Road: Ancient Pathway to the Modern World,” brings the trade route to life through evocative sights, sounds, and objects, as well as intriguing interactives. Traveling the Silk Road transports visitors to four ancient cities: Xi’an, the capital of China’s Tang Dynasty; Turfan, a verdant oasis and trading outpost along the Silk Road; Samarkand, a center for prosperous merchants who thrived on the caravan trade; and Baghdad, a cosmopolitan hub of commerce and scholarship that flourished as a leading intellectual center of the time.
“’Traveling the Silk Road: Ancient Pathway to the Modern World’ is a fascinating exhibit showcasing one of the greatest trading routes in human history, which was an important conduit for not only the exchange of goods, but also for the sharing and transfer of technology and culture,” said Dr. Frederic Bertley, president and CEO of COSI.
“We are thrilled to open Traveling the Silk Road as the first special exhibition as part of this one-of-a-kind collaboration between a state-of-the-art science center and one of the world’s leading natural history museums,” Bertley said. “This partnership, beginning with the addition of the new and thought-provoking American Museum of Natural History Dinosaur Gallery, helps us showcase the research of the American Museum of Natural History scientists and further our commitment to enrich public understanding of science through this enhanced visitor experience. It is a great asset not only for COSI, but our broader community as well.”
Named for the treasured fabric that attracted traders from all over the world, the Silk Road stretched from the far reaches of China through the cities and empires of Central Asia and the Middle East. Immersive re-creations of ancient settings feature life-size models, engaging videos, and hands-on activities to tell the story of the extraordinary peoples and cultures during the route’s golden age, from AD 600 to 1200, and its influence on the world in the centuries that followed. Bringing new insight to modern notions of globalization and multiculturalism, this exciting exhibition explores a time when the information superhighway was a network of land routes that stretched 4,600 miles across blazing desert sands and snowy mountain passes.
“For centuries, the Silk Road was a vast and busy network bridging Asia and the Mediterranean where people met, transported goods, and conducted trade, and in the process shared culture, religion, and technology,” says Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History. “In this exhibition, we invite the public to take a rich and wonderful journey with us along this critical cultural pathway. Visitors will see spectacular sights, smell the spices, marvel at the silk, and hear the stories and music of the great ancient civilizations of Asia and the Middle East.”
“Traveling the Silk Road: Ancient Pathway to the Modern World,” is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York, in collaboration with the ArtScience Museum, Singapore; Azienda Speciale Palaexpo, Roma, Italy and Codice. Idee per la cultura srl, Torino, Italy; the National Museum of Australia, Canberra, Australia and Art Exhibitions Australia; and the National Museum of Natural Science, Taichung, Taiwan and United Daily News, Taipei, Taiwan.
In “Traveling the Silk Road,” visitors of all ages will experience an array of wonders: a vivid full-scale re-creation of a night market in Turfan, replete with the sights and smells of spices, luxury goods, and precious raw materials; a trio of caravan camels wending their way through the desert; a working model of an ancient Islamic astrolabe, a high-tech marvel of its time; and a 41-foot-long replica of the prow of an Arabian sailing ship, called a dhow, with a cutaway view of its priceless cargo below deck.
Children and adults can electronically re-create the sounds of traditional Chinese instruments, watch ancient tales come alive through digital animation, and explore the Silk Road further on an interactive computer map that charts different routes and geographical features such as deserts and mountains in addition to the religions, languages, technology and artwork found along the way. The exhibition also showcases the spectacular goods and technologies that made their way from one settlement to another across some of the globe’s most daunting terrain.
The Silk Road was not merely a conduit for material goods but also for scientific knowledge, technological advances, folklore, art, history, and religious beliefs through contact among peoples and cultures.
“When we think of the Silk Road, we think mostly of silk,” explains lead curator Mark Norell, chair and Macaulay Curator of the Division of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History. “But paper, which helped spread literacy and Islam throughout the world, was an invention from China. Buddhism, which came out of India, went north. No single person traveled the entire length of the Silk Road, but trade goods did, and, more importantly, so did ideas.”
For more information about “Traveling the Silk Road: Ancient Pathway to the Modern World,” visit cosi.org.