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Traveling the Silk Road
Ancient Pathway to the Modern World
The 4th Exhibition Gallery, Life Science Hall
June 11 – September 12, 2011

For centuries, the Silk Road was a vast and busy network bridging Asia and the Mediterranean region, where people met, transported goods, and conducted trade, and in the process shared culture, religion, and technology.

Traveling the Silk Road: Ancient Pathway to the Modern World, on view at the American Museum of Natural History in New York until August 14, 2010, manages to both trade on the romance inherent in the idea of a Silk Road and take a stab at re-creating life in Central Asia from A.D. 600 to 1200, the heyday of trade between China and the Middle East. While the exhibit explains it is unlikely that many people traveled the entire route, the conceit of the show is to take the visitor on a vibrant voyage that begins at Xian, capital of China’s Tang Dynasty, goes through the oasis of Turfan in the Taklamakan desert and Samarkand, home of prosperous merchants who thrived on the caravan trade, and ends in Baghdad, a fertile hub of commerce and scholarship that became the intellectual of the era,

Arranged as a journey, the installation allows visitors to experience the various forms of cultural exchange between the cities and empires of Central and West Asia. Highlights include: live silkworms spinning cocoons in the section devoted to Xian; a replica of Turfan's desert markets, with exotic spices, luxury items and precious raw materials on view; a life-sized model of a camel, along with explanations of papermaking and metalworking in Samarkand; and a working facsimile of an Arab astrolabe that introduces Baghdad's achievements in Islamic science and engineering.

“It was twenty years ago when I first saw the great human’s trace from Xinjang’s Map It at NASA. It did impress me!” recalled Dr. Sun Wei-hsing, the Museum Director, at the opening reception. “It is significant for me that the wonders and secrets of human history are shown at the museum I work 20 years afterwards,” continued Sun with proud. “In this exhibition, we invite the public to take a journey with us along this critical cultural pathway, which might be thought of as the internet of the ancient world. Visitors will see spectacular sights, smell the spices, marvel at the silk, and hear the stories and music of the great ancient civilizations of Asia and the Middle East,” added he.

Throughout the exhibition, hands-on activities and interactive will bring to life the golden age of the Silk Road, when the extraordinary collaboration of peoples and cultures influenced the civilized world for hundreds of years.

Also, the National Museum of Natural Science work with Kevin Lin, a renowned Taiwanese ultra-marathon runner running the length of the Silk Road some 9,600 km, starting in Istanbul, Turkey in late April and finishing in Xian, China in mid September 2011. The “Running the Silk Road” project aims to increase public awareness of the shortage of water resources in the region. The Museum displays Lin’s running route and videos delivered by Lin at the exhibition’s entrance. Lin won’t be visiting our exhibition as he is running the Silk Road, yet he sent his greetings to our visitors at the Caspian Sea on the video.

Traveling the Silk Road: Ancient Way to Modern World is suitable for children as well as adults. To support Kevin Lin and the “Running the Silk Road” project, the Museum launches “Go for Kevin Lin” activity. Visitors who take pictures with the dummy board of Lin at the exhibition’s entrance and post it on the Museum’s fan page will be given a gift. Gifts are limited to 500. Do not miss your chance!

Silk Road

Travel the Silk Road: Ancient Way to the Modern World presented by the American Museum of Natural Science in September 2009 is curated by Mark Norell, Chairman and Curator-in-Charge of the Division of Paleontology at the Museum, with guest co-curator William Honeychurch, an assistant professor in the Dept. of Anthropology at Yale University and consultant Denise Leidy, curator of the Dept. of Asian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Traveling the Silk Road: Ancient Way to Modern World is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York, in collaboration with the National Museum of Natural Science, Taichung, Taiwan and United Daily News, Taipei, Taiwan; Azienda Speciale Palaexpo, Roma, Italy and Codice Idee per la cultura srl, Torino, Italy; The National Museum of Australia, Canberra, Australia and Art Exhibitions Australia.