Inspired by the past
Archaeology as inspiration
The European public eagerly immersed themselves in the latest archaeological discoveries from the Arab and Ottoman world.
The new science of archaeology was front-page news in the 19th century. Strange and amazing artefacts from distant lands brought people face to face with ancient cultures: here were Egyptian mummies and life-size figures of Assyria’s fearsome kings. The public flocked to museums to see these wonders for themselves. No longer did we have to rely on written accounts produced by other, often hostile, cultures. Here we could see for the first time the physical reality of the lost peoples. Would what they have to tell us confirm or disprove the written accounts?

At the Great Exhibitions, ancient cultures joined their modern successors in showing off their achievements. Before moving pictures were invented, public lantern slideshows both educated and entertained. At the turn of the 20th century, picture postcards enjoyed the popularity Twitter does today. Archaeological topics were part of these crazes.
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Inspired by the past

Archaeology as inspiration
Imagining the past
Winged colossus

7th century BC

The British Museum, London, United Kingdom

The massive Assyrian winged animals that protected the doorways of Assyrian palaces captured the imagination of the 19th-century public. They were favourite exhibits in museum collections. Large-scale reproductions of them were incorporated into “The Assyrian Court” at the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851. They were awesome, artistically and technically, and made ideal subjects for souvenirs. How did the excavators move such large objects from the sites? How did museums get them through the doors?

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In this Exhibition
About the Exhibition
The birth of archaeology
The formation of museums
Inspired by the past