SITE PRESENTATION \ 236
1: G. Buccellati, October 2007
From experimentation to implementationIn Syro-Mesopotamian archaeology there is no tradition of preparing sites for visitors. When this is done at all, it is generally not at the hands of archaeologists, and not for areas that are still under excavation. Hence it was necessary, for me, to develop my own sensitivity for the task at the same time that I was experimenting with various approaches and techniques. In the end, it was mostly through common sense, and through visits to other sites, that my sensitivity was shaped. In other words, there was no initial systematic plan that I set out to implement. Rather, such a plan developed through a series of trials and errors in the field that were meant to serve the simple goal of explaining to others, both colleagues and laymen, what we were doing. The practical implementation that eventually came into being suggested also the articulation of theoretical considerations that underlie my effort and are presented here.
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Collaboration with the Metropolitan Museum of ArtThe site presentation program has been a deep concern of mine since the beginning, and I have experimented with a number of approaches that are outlined in the chronicle page. Over the years I have benefitted from the collaboration of several staff members and of course from the responses from visitors. A major leap forward is now made possible by the association we have established with the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Our collaboration is geared precisely to achieve the optimum fruition of the archaeology, and the impact of modern museology on site presentation, as embodied for me first of all in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was a powerful factor in shaping my own sensibility for this issue.
At the site, the original data are the stratigraphy and the built environment. What is missing are the objects. So, our explanations emphasize the former, but show how the objects (through photography and drawings) fit within their particular context. The converse is true of museum exhibits, where the originals are the objects, but stratigraphy and architecture can only be described through graphics (now with the added advantage of 3-D renderings and of virtual reality). Our collaboration with the Metropolitan Museum of Art will develop this doubly integrated approach as a model of its kind, which will progress in synch with the excavations themselves.
Besides assisting us in the development of our ambitious program of site presentation, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is also collaborating in the work on the exhibits for the Hassaka Museum, which will of course complement the presentation effort at the site itself.