Marvels of Materials

Marvels of Materials: My Push Toward Museums

By Doug Braun

Majors: Classical Civilizations, History, and Anthropology, Spring 2020.

Image: Doug Braun
Doug Braun Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.
Over the past semester I was fortunate enough to curate my own exhibition for the Binghamton University Art Museum. The exhibition, named “Marvels of Materials: Trade and Materiality in Ancient Egypt”,  focuses on the exchange and use of materials in Ancient Egyptian art. Materials examined range from organic materials like ivory and wood to inorganic ones like pigments and stone, which are used in pieces as small as amulets to as large as busts. All of these materials can help tell the viewer how the Egyptians acquired, used, and thought about materials. In researching for this exhibition I have learned that even the most unassuming of materials and objects have their own unique stories within Egypt’s long and storied past. Unlike the modern world, in which we are so divorced from where the materials in our products come, the Ancient Egyptians, and all other civilizations in the ancient world for that matter, were abundantly familiar with where they acquired their materials from. This trade in materials created an immense web of social, political, and economic networks which connected various parts of the ancient world across various time periods.

I hope that in viewing this exhibition the viewer learns that ancient societies did not exist in bubbles and were, in fact, in contact with each other, whether directly or indirectly through trade, for much of their histories, influencing each other’s cultural practices, artistic styles, and changing the way in which these civilizations saw themselves. In addition to this current exhibition, I was fortunate enough to co-curate another exhibition at the Binghamton University Art museum in the Spring of 2019. The exhibition, called “Reinventing the Past: Neoclassicism in Western Art,”  compared and contrasted Classical and Neoclassical pieces in the museum’s collection. In addition to these exhibitions, I also worked at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, as an intern in their Art of the Ancient World Department, in the Summer of 2019.

As a student pursuing a career in the museum world, I found the experience of curating these exhibitions as well as working in a major museum invaluable in helping me prepare for the next steps in this career path. To be able to interact with and research artifacts in a museum setting has long been a dream of mine and I was able to accomplish this through my work on this exhibition. With this invaluable experience  in the world of museum curation I feel as though I am able to take the next steps in my intended career path. Additionally, while curating this exhibition was extremely enriching for my own career interests, I also found it extremely rewarding as I was able to see the tangible results of my work and was able to personally see the effect my exhibition has on people. It is this desire to educate, and its tangible results, that have encouraged me to go further down this career path. I am extremely grateful to the Binghamton University Art Museum, Harpur Edge, my faculty advisors at the University, as well as Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, for allowing me to learn, enhance my own skills, and push me further along this path. 

Click to see "Marvels of Materials" Virtual Exhibit