Crossing Cultures, Crossing Time at The Ashmolean – a review

by Jacob Warn

A Review of Oxford Unlocked: Object-Handling & Tour at The Ashmolean, an Oriel Arts Week 2015 event.

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During Oriel Arts Week 2015, two groups of Oriel students spent several hours in the Ashmolean Museum with Dr Mallica Kumbera Landrus. As part of an Oxford Unlocked series – designed to reveal the secrets of a number of galleries and museums across the city – this insightful tour and object-handling was a remarkable experience.

As a frequent visitor to the museum, I personally wasn’t sure what a tour could offer me– but I was wrong. Dr Mallica combined impressive knowledge with a wholly captivating style of delivery. She takes us back to 2009 – the year the renovated Ashmolean re-opened – drawing on the importance of 9/11 for the reworking of architectural and exhibition spaces in the building. She epitomised the museum’s ethos in a way that made this huge jigsaw of a place solve itself into a miraculous and remarkable picture. That ethos is of Crossing Cultures, Crossing Time.

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In a 40 minute whirlwind tour, she picked out a number of objects, accumulating them into a narrative that told the history of trade across the Eurasian landmasses, proving temporal and spatial distances irrelevant, and throughout bringing a multiplicity of contemporary significances to our humbled minds stunned with this unexpected virtuosity.

We finally reached a door kept tightly shut. Inside though, under Mallica’s expert guidance, our gloved hands examined and teased out the stories behind several objects: objects that had themselves crossed cultures and times to get here, into our very hands.

This session was truly a delight for all those involved: being taken through this museum with such a knowledgeable and engaging guide has made this event – this experience – an unchallenged highlight of the Oriel Arts Week 2015.

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This event was part of the University Engagement Programme at the Ashmolean Museum. To get your college involved, email Dr Mallica Kumbera Landrus (mallica.kumberalandrus@ashmus.ox.ac.uk) for more details.

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The Poor Print

The Oriel College Newspaper. Run by students, with contributions from the JCR, MCR, and SCR & Staff. Current Executive Editors: Tom Davy, Joanna Engle and Chris Hill

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