The work of an archaeologist is but a part of a longer process which doesn’t end with the research in the office and on the field, with the recovery, inventory and study of artifacts. There’s also a need to present those objects to the public, in a way that allows an understanding of the past, through exhibitions and other activities.
A normal day at the National Museum of Archaeology, in Lisbon (Portugal), includes activities such as:
- the inventory of objects which are part of its collections;
- support to researchers who, within university projects, study the archaeological remains deposited at the museum, by providing data about the archaeological sites and access to a specialized library;
- guided visits and many other educative actions as a way to sensitize the school groups;
- conservation and restoration of archaeological artifacts belonging to the museum’s collection or to other institutions.
However, there are projects developed in partnership with other institutions with the same purpose – to promote the education of the archaeological past – and most of them result in the creation and support of exhibitions. Today, in addition to the conception of the exhibits, there’s also the need to guarantee a correspondent activity plan to conquer the main public. An European project is being developed with the intention of presenting visitors a change of perspective regarding museum’s objects and the museum itself – Project Eurovision: Museums Exhibiting Europe. This strategy takes advantage of events (such as this one) to work on that awareness and reinforce the identity of people through their heritage.
This year, the National Museum of Archaeology presents a street itinerant exhibition about the stelae with Southwest Script and the Iron Age at its entrance. It is designed to show how this phenomenon results from a historical and heritage process and interacts with the public space. After more than two centuries of research on this subject, the exhibition features properly illustrated and written contents and it is organized in order to raise awareness of the Southwest Script, where and how these communities lived and died, who were the researchers, the set of known stelae. There was special care in producing a contemporary and creative speech, which can satisfy more than one type of visitors, meaning that it is transversal to different age groups, regarding knowledge and degrees of interest. One of the concerns was that the exhibition should not have any access or schedule limitation, thus allowing a short visit. It should also be noted that it is bilingual (Portuguese and English), which enables foreign visitors to a better understanding.
There is also a contemporary approach to this subject, made by plastic artists El Menau and Angela Menezes, who present a mural painting and an art installation in the adjacent area to the exhibition.
The exhibition results from the cooperation between the Municipality of Loulé and Projecto ESTELA. One of its concerns is to convert the scientific knowledge into information, thus strengthening the identity of people through their heritage and creating a cultural landscape. Born in 2008, Projecto ESTELA has the primary goal of systematizing the information about stelae depicting the Southwest Script, through the characterization of the contexts, the material culture and the territory of the archaeological sites in the Algarve and Alentejo mountain, where stelae have been found, hence contributing to review and produce knowledge about the community which lived there in the middle of the 1st millennium BC.
On July 24th, based on this exhibition, the National Museum of Archaeology, the Projecto ESTELA and the Project Eurovision: Museums Exhibiting Europe will offer numerous activities, such as guided tours, workshops and a presentation of digital solutions, in order to explore one of the greatest mysteries and treasures of European archaeology in a more interactive way – the Southwest Script, the first well characterized manifestation of writing in the Iberian Peninsula and one of the oldest in Europe, and which is yet to be deciphered.