Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Penn Museum Xinjiang Exhibit Resumes

For the past month, sealed cases full of Xinjiang artifacts and two incredibly preserved mummies have been sitting in the back rooms of the Penn Museum unopened. Guarded by curiously unsigned documents and layers of bureaucratic red tape, it looked as if the museum exhibit “Secrets of the Silk Road” was doomed.
After weeks of negotiations between high-level officials in China and the U.S., however, an agreement has been made to allow the incredible exhibit to resume. According to a press release by the Penn Museum last Friday, the “Secrets of the Silk Road” will be on display in its entirety from Friday, February 18th through Tuesday, March 15. Although this will cut short the mummy display that was supposed to run an extra three months in length, the museum is trying to make up for it by extending their open hours.
I received an unexpected and very kind email from Victor Mair last weekend, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature at the University of Pennsylvania and a respected Xinjiang scholar. Based on what he wrote, it sounds like this has been quite an ordeal over the past few weeks. All of us on the outside just see the politically-correct press releases and the crazy rumors, but behind closed doors this has been quite the roller coaster ride.
Congrats to Professor Mair, Dr. Hodges, and everybody else at the Penn Museum for making this exhibit possible. I’m sure they know the real reason for this whole mess, and I’m quite certain it won’t be revealed to the public any time soon.
Are you going to be in Philadelphia over the next month? Whether or not you’ve been to Xinjiang, I encourage you to make a stop at the Penn Museum and enjoy the “Secrets of the Silk Road” exhibit.
A paper mache mummy in place of the Xinjiang mummy
These paper mache mummies which were displayed in place of the real ones, will finally be replaced.