When the British Museum opened its doors more than two centuries ago, scores of visitors waited eagerly outside for a first glimpse of ancient relics from Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Even today, in this age of satellite television and high-speed Internet access, museums maintain their unique allure, continuing to play a vital role in connecting us with little-known terrains and the deep mysteries of our historical past. That's because, as Stephanie Moser argues in "Wondrous Curiosities", museum displays don't just transmit knowledge - they actually create it. Based on her exploration of the British Museum's world-famous collection of Egyptian antiquities, this pioneering study reveals the powerful role of museums in shaping our understanding of science, culture, and history. Drawing on guidebooks and archival documents, Moser demonstrates that this British exhibition of ancient Egyptian artifacts was central to the way we came to define the remarkable society that produced them.
Stephanie Moser is professor of archaeology at the University of Southampton. She is the author of Ancestral Images: The Iconography of Human Origins and coeditor of Envisioning the Past: Archaeology and the Image.