Exploding Canons: Mysteries of Mummies of the World – 01/26/12

Charlotte Teachers Institute unwrapped the secrets and complexities of mummies in its “Exploding Canons: Mysteries of Mummies of the World” at Discovery Place on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012, from 6 to 10 p.m.

This installment of CTI’s “Exploding Canons” discussion series focused on Discovery Place’s highly popular Mummies of the World exhibition, the largest collection of real mummies and related artifacts ever assembled. (Click HERE to view Discovery Place’s “Mummies of the World” info and video.)

“Exploding Canons events offer new ways of looking at hot topics,” said CTI Executive Director Scott Gartlan. “We hear from a wide array of local academic experts whose varying expertise and focus areas help us see the issues through multidisciplinary lenses.”

The event brought new perspectives to Discovery Place’s mummies exhibition with a panel discussion including faculty members from UNC Charlotte, Davidson College, the Charlotte Museum of History and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The evening started with a 6 p.m. reception, and guests explored the exhibition afterward until 10 p.m.

Admission (including the exhibition visit) was free and open to the public, thanks to the event’s primary sponsor — the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. CMS teachers and administrators from all grade levels and subject areas were especially encouraged to attend, with CMS educators’ admission sponsored by the Arts & Science Council. Discovery Place is located at 301 N. Tryon St. in uptown Charlotte. Free parking was available in the Discovery Place parking deck.

“Exploding Canons:  Mysteries of Mummies of the World” presentations and panelists included:

“The Controversies of Studying Human Remains” — Helen Cho, associate professor of anthropology at Davidson College, probes the clash between scientists who study human remains and those who object to disturbing and viewing bodies after they have been laid to rest. “I find Americans to be uncomfortable with the idea of death compared to other cultures, and this discomfort with the inevitable life event brings in topics of death, afterlife, religion and more,” Cho says.

“The Value of Archaeological Textiles in Mummification” — Angelica Docog, executive director of the Charlotte Museum of History, points out “we are surrounded by textiles from birth to death. Archaeological textiles can provide fascinating insights to prehistoric cultures that created them.” Docog examined early textiles as evidence of technology, socio-economic conditions, global influences, burial practices, botany, and how textiles continue to reflect culture today.

“Mummies of London” — Alan Rauch, professor of English at UNC Charlotte and editor of “Configurations: A Journal of Literature, Science, & Technology,” will reveal Egyptian mummies as reflected in the society, poetry and literature of early 19th century London including “The Mummy!” and discuss the effects of these texts on modern day views of mummies.

“Costume Research and Cultural Findings:  A High School Performance of Aida” — Barbara Wesselman, apparel and costume design teacher at Northwest School of the Arts, discussed her students’ research into ancient Egypt and what they uncovered about weaving, colors, style, social rankings and more, as they studied the setting and designed costumes for Northwest’s 2009 production of “Aida.”

Douglas Coler, coordinator of in-house education for Discovery Place, served as moderator for the panel discussion. “Mummies of the World” is a major international touring exhibition including both naturally and intentionally preserved, human and animal mummies and related artifacts from cultures around the world, offering unprecedented insights into earlier civilizations.

“Exploding Canons: Mysteries of the Mummies of the World” was sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, with support from Discovery Place, Arts & Science Council and Charlotte Museum of History. “Exploding Canons” events leverage the partnerships among CTI to offer educators and the public collaborative educational opportunities that highlight university and college faculty, explore diverse topics in an interdisciplinary manner, and encourage community conversation.