This morning starts as any morning before in my life. The only thing that differs this day from the others is my future visit to a museum exhibition. The Spurlock Museum is known by its collections, documents, exhibitions, and objects that present cultural heritage of Ancient Egypt, Africa, Rome, Greece, East and Southeast Asia, and many other countries.
The circle in the center of the Spurlock Museum unites several different galleries in both thematic and physical levels. I have a choice to visit any gallery: affable and polite staff is eager to present any information, however, it does not really necessary to give some pieces of advice as all points are perfectly described with the help of the displays. This museum is interesting from several perspectives: properly chosen colors, captivating design, interesting sizes of each room, and sound, the silence allows to feel the atmosphere of the chosen epoch and those times as the visitor may only imagine. For someone, gray and white colors of the first room may be rather depressive and even boring. However, for me, such choice of colors underlines the accuracy and unprejudiced nature of the room, where each visitor can easily pick out the gallery according to his/her personal choice and preferences. East Asian culture and Oceania always attract my attention, and I want to know more about more about their traditions and myths.
This is why my first gallery to visit is obvious – East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Oceania. James Clifford once wrote about the exhibition he visited with his son that people can easily “skip the preliminaries because the next, larger, space draws you in.” (194) People are so inconstant with their preferences and choices, however, their history and the objects of culture may say a lot about people and their past lives. Usually, people try to create lots of traditions in order to follow them and make their lives more or less dependable on something; something that is less comprehensible and even uncontrolled.
Mythology of Bali is one of my first stop. I have already read a lot about Balinese mythology: Rangda and Barong are my favorite characters. It is unbelievable pleasant to see these characters so close to me and even to ‘become aquatinted’ with them. Rangda was one of the most powerful Balinese evil witches. She had unbelievable power; her image plays an important role in Balinese culture and attracts the attention of lots of tourists. Barong is a good character that struggled against Rangda.
People of Bali represent barongs as different animals. For each region, there was another animal fighting against the evil of Rangda: a traditional lion, a marvelous dragon, a huge tiger, and even a big boar. Because of such inconstancy of images, the Spurlock Museum presents this exhibit with one of the possible and probably the most important masks – the mask of lion. The bright colors of the mask attract my attention first. Unbelievable combination of red and golden colors and the light of the room make this figure rather kind and attractive to the viewer. Such bright colors are certainly inherent to the Balinese and their taste. This barong ket is a gift presented by Professor John Garvey to the Spurlock Museum. The exhibit comes from Bali and participates in numerous festivals.
In spite of the fact that the barong ket is a dragon-like figure, the presence of mask perfectly underlines that there was no concrete image of the barong in Ancient Indonesia. The Spurlock Museum perfectly presents the culture of Balinese people: on the one hand, terrible and even terrifying image of evil witch Rangda is displayed with the help of red colors; on the other hand, the same colors were used to represent Barong. However, the ways these colors are used are rather different, and this is why such two exhibits may cause absolutely different emotions from the viewer. The mask of Rangda is another exhibit that is interesting to me in the Spurlock Museum. This mask has long hair and dark eyes with black pupils and a bit light irises. (Spurlock Museum) One gold ribbon hangs from the mouth, where four gold objects are attached. Rangda is rather a complex figure.
Even if this terrible face with red tongue and sparkling eyes should cause fear, this figure is not a symbol of fear neither for the Balinese no for visitors of the Spurlock Museum. It is angry and scared. However, this very figure makes me think about the reasons why it is so. Maybe, this Rangda is a symbol of misunderstanding and fear, but fear not of the people around but because of them. This mask comes to the Spurlock Museum in 2002. It is also one of the gifts of Professor John Garvey to the museum.
Such presents provide the visitors with an opportunity to learn more about the history and the traditions of the favorite countries, about people and their tastes. With the help of such sculptures, the culture of the Balinese people may alive. People get a wonderful opportunity to imagine the possible development of the events by means of the images and exhibits.
People always have the right of choice, and the Spurlock Museum provides its visitors with such choices. My first meeting with the exhibits of the Spurlock Museum is really amazing. I try to use all my imagination to compare and analyze the historical objects, which are left for our and future generations. Museums help us to touch our history once again and comprehend why our world is like this, why people prefer to believe in old traditions instead of creating new ones and taking into account modern circumstances. The presentation of the Spurlock Museum impressed me a lot. Bright colors of each room and their unbelievable combination in one room (the first one) are one of the most interesting approaches chosen by the workers of the Spurlock Museum. It is not that easy to unite different epochs, times, and cultures. The Spurlock Museum does not confuse the visitor but helps him/her make the right choice and enjoy the beauty of the exhibitions.
Next time, I want to visit the Spurlock Museum not alone in order to share this beauty and the history of different people with someone else, who will comprehend and enjoy it with me. Clifford says that after he finishes observation all the exhibits in Paradise, he wants “a more ambivalent Paradise.” (221) Almost the same happens to me, after I watch the figures of my favorite ancient characters, I want more – more exhibits, more facts, and more history about the people of Bali.
Clifford, James. Paradise. Stygall, G.
Thomson Wadsworth, 2005. Spurlock Museum. University of Illinois Board of Trustees. Feb, 2003. 21 April, 2009.