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Exhibit: "From History to Myth"

Venues | Reviews | Exhibition catalogue | Other


Venue: The Field Museum in Chicago had the exhibit from October 2001 to March 2002. To accompany it they built a great site. Highlights include the Cleopatra Image Poll ("Goddess of Her People" is currently winning at 31%) and a quiz "Check your Cleopatra knowledge." The biographical data is reliable, a real treat on the Web.

Summary of the exhibit by Susan Walker, co-author of the guide, from The "up-with-Cleopatra" angle is a bit tiring.


Review "Immortal longings" by Ned Denny, from the New Statesman (May 7, 2001). Denny gets the show's soft underbelly, that the show tells us "more about the modern-day cult of celebrity than it does about Cleopatra," and "parades before us an array of objects that have, at best, a tenuous link to the lady in question." I should stop quoting, but this really hits the nail on the head:

"The basic problem for curators in pursuit of Cleopatra's likeness is that the greatest representations of her—the ones in which she really lives—are literary ones."

"The Allure of Cleopatra" review of Field Museum exhibit by M.S. Mason, The Christian Science Monitor (January 2002). Mason gets at a core goal of the exhibit, countering the image found in our literary sources.

"Infamy! Infamy!: Patronising, cynical... how did the British Museum get its Cleopatra exhibition so wrong?" by Jonathan Jones, The Guardian (April 14, 2001) [mirror]. This a savage review and, if you're into that sort of thing like I am, a very funy one. Jones, ever dyspeptic, hits basic problems—confusion of aims, marketing hype, the methodology of "reality and myth" exhbits.

"The British Museum's exhibition Cleopatra of Egypt: From History to Myth takes this magical story and pulverises it. It makes Cleopatra, who has seemed like our contemporary from the time of Shakespeare's England to Liz Taylor's Hollywood, a figure as remote as Shelley's Ozymandias."

Lengthy Time Magazine, Europe review by Maryann Bird (May 2001), copied by the Egyptian State Information Service.

Review by Jill Kamil, for Al-Ahram Weekly, Cairo (May 2001). Good review running down some of the artifacts. Kamil is a wonderfully prolific and engaging interpreter of Egyptian history.

Brief review of the British Museum exhibit by Miriam Kramer for Magazine Antiques (April 2001)

Short reviews of BM show from the Guardian, Times and Daily Telegraph.

"Cleopatra: The Enduring Icon" review by Lamaretta Simmons, F Newsmagazine (Art Institute of Chicago) 2002. Includes a section on the "Was Cleopatra black?" question.

The Voice of America has a report on the exhibit, but the audio doesn't work.

Exhibition catalogue

"Cleopatra: from history to myth" edited by Susan Walker and Peter Higgs. The popular Amazon reviewer Scott Chamberlain writes:

"If pressed, I'd almost say that this is the single best book on Cleopatra. Granted, there are critical biographies, historical accounts, and all sorts of other sources, but this massive book is unique in that it shows nearly every sculpture, coin, or papyrus that can be tied directly to Egypt's last independent ruler."
Reviewed by Prudence J. Jones, BMCR July, 2001. "In this work, history takes center stage while myth, if the term is taken to mean the Cleopatra imagined in subsequent ages, makes a cameo in the final act."


Audio: "The Uses of Cleopatra." Chicago Public Radio discussion program "Odyssey" [October 22, 2001], prompted by the "From History to Myth" arriving in Chicago, interviews Barbara Ciega (Exhibition Developer), Martin Mueller (Northwestern professor) about Cleopatra and the exhibit. Hosted by Gretchen Helfrich, who raises an interesting point about how the "Cleopatra as a devoted mother" image has faded—it's neither threatening nor sexy.

"Cleopatra the Stout" by Ben Greenman, a website-only "Web Sightings" piece of the New Yorker (May 2001), surveys the state of the web Cleopatra, prompted by New Yorker review of "Cleopatra of Egypt: From History to Myth."

Allan Trivette, who collects Taylor memorabilia, recounts lending Cleopatra's diadem to the Chicago exhbit. Here is his "Trivette's Tribute to Taylor."

Cleopatra in Chicago by Robert Ritner, from The Oriental Institute News and Notes (Fall 2001), describing his involvement in the Chicago exhibition.

LibraryThing: Catalog your books online.

If you enjoy this site you may also like these other sites by me:

Ancient Library. Exciting new project to put dozens of classical dictionaries and other works online.

Alexander the Great on the Web. Links to over 1000 images and 200 images of Alexander.

Genghis Khan on the Web. Comprehensive directory of resources about the great Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan.

Angels on the Web. Angels in religion, culture and art. With over 550 images.