"The first-known public museum opened over 2,500 years ago – and it was curated
by a woman. Her name was Ennigaldi-Nanna. She was a priestess and princess, the
daughter of Nabonidus, the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, who was also
an antiquarian and known as the first serious archaeologist in history.
Encouraged by her father, Ennigaldi opened her palatial antiquity museum during
the Neo-Babylonian Empire around 530 BCE, located in the state of Ur
(modern-day Iraq). It contained her own curation of artifacts dating as far
back as 2000 BCE, many of which she is thought to have excavated herself in
southern Mesopotamian. When her neatly arranged educational displays were
unearthed by archaeologists more than two millennia later in 1925, one can
imagine the utter bemusement of discovering ancient history that was also
discovering its own even more ancient history.
When husband and wife archaeologists Leanard Woolley and Katharine Woolley
excavated portions of the palace and temple complex of Ur in 1925, which lead
to discover Ennigaldi-Nanna’s museum, it was an unprecedented discovery within
a discovery. In 1925, the Woolleys knew they were excavating a Sumerian site
that existed in 500 BCE but Ennigaldi’s museum of much older artifacts filled
in major historical gaps about an era that had no previous record. To
Ennigaldi, those artifacts were nearly as old then as her own civilisation is
now to us, and thanks to her initiative to uncover and document the past, a
missing piece of humanity’s timeline is not lost to the annals of history.
The collection displayed objects such as writing tablets, jewellery, and carved
statues which were arranged in a very specific order to help the visiting
public follow the timeline and story of a civilization. The objects were
accompanied by “museum labels” made of clay drums, written in three languages
including Sumerian, and provided information about the object’s age, origin,
and significance. The categorisation of her objects were unique for her time
and for many centuries after her."
Via Muse, who wrote "Oooh! So fascinating!"
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*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics