Monday, January 25, 2010

A Journey to Ancient Times

I'm a sucker for museums, particularly when their exhibits have a history/travel focus. Maybe it's because as a child, my parents insisted that every outing be "educational" in some way. Well, I guess it worked because now I still take weekend museum outings and imagine that someday I'll drag my kids along with me.

This weekend was no exception. The Museum of Natural History may be known for its life-sized stuffed animal dioramas that transport visitors to barren tundras and expansive deserts, but it's the special exhibits that really impress. 

The Silk Road, now open through August 15, takes visitors along one of the ancient trade routes from Xi'an, China to Baghdad, Iraq (once hailed as the Middle East's center for scholarly pursuits). 

All of the cities explored along the way -- Xi'an, Samarkand, Turfan, and Baghdad -- still exist today, 1,000 years later, but it's interesting to see how they've changed. 

A typical trade route along the Silk Road would have taken anywhere from six months to a year to travel with merchants exchanging goods, cultures, languages, and religions along the way. 

AMNH brings to life that experience with a replica of a bustling market, life-sized camel models, the history of glass and paper making, insight into the kinds of stories that would have been swapped en route, and a video demonstration of silk making. (There is a reason silk is expensive -- making it is no small feat!) And while passports would not have been an issue at the time, children can feel like they are truly entering another country at each city stop by stamping their brochure passports.

Insider Tips:
  • Go Sundays to enjoy a great performance by the Silk Road Project, founded by cellist Yo-Yo Ma
  • Students be sure to bring your school ID for $6 off

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