On Sunday, July 11th the Merry Toddlers set forth for Salem, Massachusetts to see this exhibit at PEM. Several of us admitted that at the outset we were going because we were looking forward to another trip together and PEM is a wonderful museum; we were interested in the Maya but it was not what primarily inspired us. What we found was a fascinating, engaging and wonderfully designed exhibit that surprised and delighted us all!
The exhibit spread out over several rooms, with themes linking the objects in the rooms. Along with the objects were interactive elements that truly made each area come alive, as did the wall colors, which picked up and enhanced the colors of some of the exhibited artifacts. The premise of the exhibit was to show how integral the idea of water and the ocean was to Mayan culture. In the first room there were video screens suspended from the ceiling showing constantly changing cloud formations and storms; the sight and sounds were a subtle backdrop to the objects on view.
In the second room the interactive element was a video that derived from one object; you touched the picture of the vase on the screen and the engraved symbols unrolled before your eyes and lead to ocean scenes that told the story. In this room there was also a large touch-screen installation that showed figures of different animals important to the Maya. When you touched an animal image, other pictures and symbols of the animal opened up. This installation was like a big round table that you leaned over and worked with and it was almost like scrying in a pool and pulling up meanings; lots of fun and informative at the same time.
In a room near the end there was a video presentation next to a large tablet of Mayan character carvings. You could watch as many "chapters" as you wished to learn about how to read the tablet and what each grouping of characters meant.
Throughout each room the objects were presented beautifully, with small specialized fixtures illuminating details of certain pieces and groupings that related to each other and enhanced each other's meaning. I came away impressed and much better educated than when I entered!
Following the exhibit we had lunch in the excellent museum cafe and then split up to view other exhibits we were interested in, as well as spending time in the tempting gift shop. I also ran into some artist friends who were there to see the same exhibit; an unexpected bonus!
For pictures of the Merry Toddlers on the road, stay tuned for an upcoming photos page, which will debut as soon as I master uploading from my digital camera!