A Traveling Exhibition from
The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
The National Museum of Mongolian History
|An all-new exhibition that questions
our view of Genghis Khan, Modern Mongolia: Reclaiming Genghis Khan,
invites the visitor to experience Mongolian life from the beginning
of the twentieth century to today and discover Genghis Khan's real
legacy to his people, the challenge of democracy.
|The exhibit features 192 Mongolian
costumes and artifacts shown in America for the first time. Rare archival
photographs and gers (Mongolian yurts) reconstruct twentieth-century
nomadic life. Four films made especially for the exhibition provide
historic background and Mongolians' feelings about living in Mongolia
today. New maps and photographs generously illustrate the 24 text
|The exhibition is organized around
three authentic gers that depict life in Mongolia under feudal
(Manchu Dynasty), Communist, and, most recently, democratic times.
The exhibition opens with a national treasure, the Manchu Dynasty
period ger. Visitors peer into a wealthy Mongolian home of
the early twentieth century. Here a mother, father, grandmother and
child wear the traditional dress of the dominant ethnic group, the
Halh - the distinctive and ornate deel (pronounced dell) and
boots with upturned toes. The ger is richly furnished with
hand-made felt carpeting, a rustic bed, Chinese hearth, horse-head
fiddle, fully equipped kitchen, and items associated with a herding
livelihood. In the place of honor, a three-tiered wooden altar holds
silver and brass religious objects, indicating the family's Tibetan
|The centrality of shamanism and Lamaism
in Mongolian life is reflected in the compelling costumes of a shaman
and lama of high standing in a separate case.
|A transitional film describes
the struggle for independence from Chinese domination. Chief among
Mongolia's revolutionary heroes was D. Suhbaatar. His military costume
and weapons are displayed in a section that explains the Mongolian
leaders' decision to accept communism, the only feasible alternative
to Chinese rule at the time.
|The second ger, an open diorama,
shows nomadic life during the height of communism, in the 1960s. The
new government's influence is apparent everywhere in the ger,
from the subtle change of fabrics to the blatant absence of religious
objects. The clothing worn by the mother and father, once made of
Tibetan or Chinese silk, is now made of Russian cotton, and the style
of the mother's clothing is greatly modified. A chest of drawers replaces
the Buddhist altar of the first ger, displaying family photos
and awards rather than religious artifacts.
| Although Mongolia had become the second
Communist nation in the world, communism was never popular with the
people. A second film shows that within days of the destruction of
the Berlin Wall, Mongolians held demonstrations and then hunger strikes
to end the oppressive Communist regime. The government capitulated
sooner than most Eastern bloc countries and granted open, multi-party
elections. Soon after, the people ratified a new, democratic constitution
based on a free market economy, and the democratic period was underway.
|The third ger diorama brings
visitors face-to-face with the Mongolians of today. The clothing of
the family in this ger, a mixture of Communist- and democratic-era
items, shows the blend of old Soviet and new international dress.
Schoolbooks include one on English language study, and a stack of
newspapers and pamphlets brings national and international ideas into
the home. With freedom of religion restored, a framed photograph of
the Dalai Lama returns to the place of honor in the ger, on
the chest opposite the door. Unlike the early twentieth century altar,
however, religious objects are displayed alongside photographs of
family and friends.
|Having followed Mongolian nomadic life
from one ger to another, the visitor also learns that urban,
industrial life has grown in Mongolia over the course of the century.
Indeed, over half the population is now urban. In the final diorama,
the visitor sees the interior of an urban apartment where a TV plays
interviews of an urban teenager, young herder, teacher, businessman
and pensioner. They each describe their life and speak of the heritage
and future of Mongolia.
|Throughout the exhibition, the visitor
catches glimpses of Genghis Khan, who dominates the soul of the Mongolian
people, especially as they build a democratic nation today. As the
visitor prepares to leave the exhibition, Genghis Khan's true gifts
to his people - independence and the foundation for building a true
democracy - are shown to be alive and central to Mongolian life today.
|Modern Mongolia: Reclaiming Genghis
|The Curator of this historical ethnography
exhibition is Dr. Paula L.W. Sabloff, Senior Research Scientist and
Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. To
tell the story of Modern Mongolia, Dr. Sabloff presents her recent
anthropological research on democracy in Mongolia and works closely
with Associate Curator Dr. Dashdendev Bumaa, Curator of Twentieth-Century
History, and Assistant Curator Ms. Eliot Grady Bikales, Assistant
Curator of Twentieth Century History, both of the National Museum
of Mongolian History.
|An accompanying book, Modern Mongolia:
Reclaiming Genghis Khan, richly illustrated with more than 120 rare
color photographs and specially created maps, features interpretative
essays on Mongolia's culture, history, and modern life. Retailing
for $34.95 cloth and $17.95 paperback, the book will be available
in early October.
|A Teaching Manual providing activities
for several age groups accompanies the book. And an interactive website
will be available at www.upenn.edu/museum/Mongolia beginning September
|If you would like to book Modern
Mongolia: Reclaiming Genghis Khan for your institution, please
Traveling Exhibitions Coordinator
Fax: (215) 573-3274
||University of Pennsylvania Museum of
Archaeology and Anthropology
3260 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6324