It is an exercise of scopophilia to take an online explorer’s trip on the thousands of exhibits in British Museum. The images, educational, cultural or political propaganda, churn out wide ranging representations, meaning and cultural texts and context. The viewer searches the galleries, unaware of Barthes’ punctum (Sturken,18), and finds the theme of “Living and Dying” (Pompeii and Herculaneum) in Room 24 worthy of visit. The Freudian unconsciousness of fear compels the viewer to stay, interpellates and interacts with the exhibits.
The theme of “life and death” offers a perennial universal appeal. The display covers a wide range of cultural objects, ranging from gold and artistic artifacts, pharmacopoeia to sculptures, from several countries (New Zealand, Ghana, Solomon Island, North and South America), representing different cultural and religious approaches to combating illness, avoiding danger and threat, to placate relationship problems and to find harmony and meaning with the spiritual world. These different representations and genealogies appear to contest with one another, in the context of Bourdieu’s habitus (Sturken, 60). They are all inter-connected by the common theme of “life and death”. The ancient artifacts, such as the eagle-shaped coffin from Ghana, the primitive looking ancestral figurine from Soloman Island and the wooden beaker from Peru, share “high” aesthetic value, in the context of pleasure, beauty and creativity. (Sturken, 56). The different representation of images and artifacts, across time and culture, was enactment of different spaces and time, a heterotopia. Foucault considered the museum as a cemetery, where viewers, the relatives and families of the dead met and shared the common genealogy . A single space in Room 24 in British Museum has brought disparate objects together. Echoing Marshall McLuhan, the media conveyed the message that life and death were shared by all humanity. This would only be possible if there was the attunement of empathy, the feeling of shared global consciousness in timeless space.
Viewers can be sensitive while looking at the objects, and the representations evoke personal feelings to them, resulting in shift in egocentric patterns of thinking and living. In a globalized world viewers need to look at objects and images with different perspectives and accommodate the others’ interpretation, since cultural emplacement may contest one another. The knowledge of curators may be encyclopedic, but hegemonic ideologies may be hidden without awareness. The transience and limitation of living is shared by all humanity, across time and space, with the click of the keyboard. Propelled by the universality of disease and illness, life and death, happiness or sadness, viewers do share these common unifying themes, despite the diversities. By fostering global consciousness, the fragmentation and alienation experienced at the personal level is re-constructed. The desire to communicate such feelings and thought to one another results in self- understanding. Fostering global consciousness requires insight and transcendence that our lives are inter dependent and inter connected.
(489 words)


1. Lo, Patricket al.(2014) Links between Libraries and Museums: a Case Study of Library- Museum. Hong Kong. Vol. 5, n. 1 .
2. British Museum Explore/Galleries. Living And Dying (Room 24). E:\British Museum – Room 24 Living and Dying.htm cited 08-03-2014
3. Naisbitt,John, Globalization: Global Consciousness: Think locally, act globally. cited 08-03-2014
4.Sturken,M and Cartwright,L. (2009) Practices of Looking: An Introduction To Visual Culture. Oxford /NY, Oxford University Press.


    1. wonkywizard Post author

      That universal desire may be the global fear of death. Every culture has its own version of “after death”, heaven, reincarnation, rebirth …


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