The Duchess of Malfi
Through May 29, 2011The multi-venue exhibition, Tangible Things: Harvard Collections in World History, prompts viewers to question the ways in which objects are typically classified. Find six objects from other Harvard collections within the Harvard Museum of Natural History’s galleries. These “guest objects” include a dog’s paw-print in mud brick from Mesopotamia dated 1500-1350 BC, on loan from the Semitic Museum; a Tiffany vase (pictured left) from the Harvard Art Museums; and a kidney stone from the Warren Anatomical Museum at the Harvard Medical School. A Guide-by-Cell tour offers visitors an opportunity to learn more about each of these objects.
The core Tangible Things exhibit is located at the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments and includes objects from many Harvard libraries and museums. Guest objects are located in several different venues. The exhibition was developed by Ivan Gaskell, Senior Lecturer in History, and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, 300th Anniversary University Professor in the History department, as part of the Harvard general education course Tangible Things: Harvard Collections in World History.
Download the exhibition flyer and clue sheet.
Listen to an NPR interview with Ivan Gaskell and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.
Louis Comfort Tiffany, Floriform Vase, c. 1900. Glass. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Murray Anthony and Bessie Lincoln Potter, 1957.43. Photo: Katya Kallsen © President and Fellows of Harvard College.
In the first chapter of Linda Hogan's People of the Whale entitled "Octopus", readers are told of an unfamiliar moment--the silence and stillness before bringing home a whale.....
....When they hunted, the women would be quiet the whole time the men were out. Everyone has to be pure in heart and mind. By then the whale would be coming gladly toward the village.
"Oh brother, sister whale," he sang. "Grandmother whale, Grandfather whale. If you come here to land we have beautiful leaves and trees. We have warm places. We have babies to feed and we'll let your eyes gaze upon them. We will let your soul become a child again. We will pray it back into a body. It will enter our bodies. You will be part human. We'll be part whale. Within our bodies, you will dance in warm rooms, create light, make love. We will be strong in thought for you. We will welcome you. We will treat you well. Then one day I will join you." His wife sang with him.
When Witka truly died, his wife, best girlfriend, and daughter held on to his body longer than they should. They couldn't be sure he was dead just because he wasn't breathing. (22-23).
As a modern reader, it is a breathtaking passage in which life has been delineated into an endless cycle of enrichment. Whales and human beings will share this mingling process of myth-making. The praying of the female whale singer and the sonable agreement of the whales....
Is it the music of cannibalistic ecstasy?