Renovated Morgens West Foundation Galleries of Ancient Near Eastern Art open at the Michael C. Carlos Museum

Nov. 6, 2018

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The Morgens West Foundation Galleries of Ancient Near Eastern Art will open to the public on Saturday, Nov. 10, after a nine-month renovation. Emory Photo/Video

The Morgens West Foundation Galleries of Ancient Near Eastern Art will open to the public on Saturday, Nov. 10, after a nine-month renovation.

A transformative gift from Sally and Jim Morgens, longtime friends of the museum, provided the opportunity for a new architectural design and curatorial vision, which have led to the integration of technology in the galleries as well as new opportunities for enhanced viewership and learning.

Melinda Hartwig, curator of ancient Egyptian, Nubian and Near Eastern art, and the Carlos Museum’s exhibition design team worked with Emory design staff and architects from the firm Lord Aeck Sargent to reconfigure the galleries.

The reconfiguration creates an open and welcoming space that better supports the dynamic narratives of the ancient Near East as told by 300 works of art.

The artwork on view, which includes cuneiform tablets, pottery, carved stone and metal weaponry and coins, illustrates the deep connections between artistic representation, innovation and the landscape of the ancient Near East.  

 “The people of the ancient Near East looked to their natural landscape for materials and artistic ideas,” explains Hartwig. “They transformed natural resources into objects that represented their everyday world.” 

At the heart of the ancient Near East is the Fertile Crescent, so named in reference to its mineral-rich soil and shape of the land mass extending from the Nile Valley along the eastern Mediterranean and down to the Persian Gulf. With an abundant water supply and fair weather, early civilizations thrived, and the domestication of plants and animals led to permanent settlements.

Social organization and favorable environmental conditions allowed residents to explore the use of natural materials and develop technologies such as smelted metal, stone carving, monumental building and wheel-made pottery (thus enabling the first mass production of objects). Cities, ruling classes and organized religion emerged. From the development of writing came administration, record keeping, literature and poetry. 

According to Hartwig, these ideas, institutions and techniques are where the legacy of the ancient Near East lies. It’s important to note, she cautions, that within the geographical region responsible for so many innovations, “Cultures fought, traded and influenced one another, much like today.” 

Though expansive, the region lacked geographical unity, a permanent capital city and cultural uniformity. “This lack of consistency is vital in understanding the ancient Near East,” Hartwig says. “Kingdoms headed by charismatic rulers fought against each other. Empires conquered and fell, leaving a vacuum to be filled by another kingdom. Each culture left a mark, and its objects tell the story.”

Learn more about the art of the ancient Near East through a range of programming suitable for children and adults:

Near Eastern Poetry Reading
Tuesday, Nov. 13, 7:30 p.m. | Ackerman Hall, Level Three

Workshop for Teachers: Ancient Innovation
Thursday, Nov. 15, 5 p.m. | Tate Room, Plaza Level
*Fee: $10 for Carlos Museum members; $15 for nonmembers. Space is limited, and registration is required by contacting Katie Ericson at kericso@emory.edu, or 404-727-2363.

 Artful Stories: Gilgamesh the King
Saturday, Nov. 17, 10 a.m. | Morgens West Foundation Galleries of Ancient Near Eastern Art, Level One
*For children ages 3-5 with an accompanying adult. This program is free, but registration is required by contacting Alyson Vuley at 404-727-0519 or avuley@emory.edu.

Homeschool Day: Cuneiform and Hieroglyphs
Tuesday, Nov. 27, noon-3 p.m. | Ackerman Hall, Level Three
*Fee: $8 for Carlos Museum members; $12 for nonmembers; children ages 5 and under are free. Registration is required by contacting Alyson Vuley at 404-727-0519 or avuley@emory.edu.

AntiquiTEA: Sennacherib’s “Palace Without Rival”
Tuesday, Nov. 27, 4 p.m. | Ackerman Hall, Level Three

Gallery Talk
Thursday, Dec. 6, 7:30 p.m. | Morgens West Foundation Galleries of Ancient Near Eastern Art, Level One
*Space is limited, and a reservation is required by calling 404-727-6118.

Lecture: “The Mesopatamian Sublime: Time, Matter, and the Image in Mesopatamian Antiquity” by Zainab Bahrani
Sunday, Feb. 4, 4 p.m. | Ackerman Hall, Level Three

Carlos Reads: Gilgamesh
Mondays, Feb. 18 and 24, March 4, 7:30 p.m. | Board Room, Level Two
*Fee: $60 for Carlos Museum members; $75 for nonmembers (includes the cost of the books). Registration is required by calling 404-727-6118.

Lecture: “‘Break the Teeth of the Wicked’: Picturing Righteous Violence in the Ancient Near East” by Joel LeMon
Thursday, Feb. 21, 7:30 p.m. | Ackerman Hall, Level Three