If adventure has a name, it is Indiana Jones. The archaeologist hero of movies, television and video games has been protecting the artifacts of ancient civilizations from criminals and the forces of evil for over thirty years. Now fact and fiction collide in Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology, a touring exhibition that combines the popular hero’s exploits with real world artifacts to inspire another generation to explore and protect the past. Newsarama asked Kyra Bowling, the Exhibits Manager for Lucasfilm, if Indiana Jones really does belong in a museum.
Newsarama:What was the genesis of the idea behind the Indy Exhibit?
Kyra Bowling: We’ve never done a formal Indiana Jones exhibition before and when Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was released it underscored just how popular this character and film series still was. Museum exhibitions, especially those grounded in solid content like this one, can provide a wonderful opportunity to engage and educate kids (of all ages), in a meaningful and fun way, which is important to Lucasfilm. Add to that the fascinating science of archaeology and the inherent charisma of the Indiana Jones characters and stories, and it’s a winning combination.
Nrama: It’s not just movie props, correct? Where are the other items from, and why where they selected?
Bowling: That is correct, this is not just another prop exhibit. To be sure, there is a dramatic selection of Indiana Jones film materials in the exhibition, but we also have an amazing collection of real-world artifacts and cultural treasures from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, as well as from the National Geographic Society collections. The artifacts in the exhibition, much like Indy’s adventures, intentionally span the globe. The exhibition team (which includes renowned archaeologist advisors) wanted to represent sites and cultures from around the world and throughout time to give visitors a broader picture of the subject matter. We also wanted to underscore that archaeology is everywhere and not just in remote, exotic locations. So we also have a special gallery dedicated to local archaeology where each host museum and city can display objects from their valued collections and tell their history.
Nrama: How did you separate fact from fiction in the exhibit?
Bowling: We were very sensitive to make sure this was clearly distinguished in the exhibition in multiple ways. Physically, our archaeological “zones” are visibly demarked and distinct from the film materials on display and from an interpretation standpoint, we clearly communicate through our titling and narration when a topic is a “fact vs. fiction” moment, or a behind the scenes film moment, or an entirely real-world archaeology story.
Nrama: Can you describe the visitor experience?
Bowling: We have a very special introduction to the exhibition and each visitor will also receive a personal handheld video device that is an amazing tool that lets them customize their exhibit experience. There is a section of the exhibit we call the “Indy Trail” that highlights some of the most iconic Indy adventures from the films and includes objects, costumes, concept art, clips, etc. associated with each of those adventures. Dovetailing off that are our four archaeological “zones” in which our real-world objects and stories take center stage, and peppered throughout the exhibit are a series of “quest challenges” which are games tailored for kids that explore the exhibit content in a fun, interactive way that also allows them to sharpen their skills as an “archaeologist in training.”
Nrama: What do you think real archaeologists think about Indiana Jones and the type of archeology he does?
Bowling: Though I can’t speak for others, I personally believe most people clearly understand Indiana Jones is a movie character and that instead of analyzing the archaeological methods of that fictional character, folks just sit back and enjoy the films for what they are – great entertainment. Our archaeologist advisors Drs. Fredrik Hiebert and Michel Fortin were also enthusiastic project partners.
Nrama: To what do you attribute the lasting appeal of the Indy-type character that has spawned numerous imitations across different types of media?
Bowling: I think Indiana Jones is an archetypal kind of hero but he’s also very human-scaled. He’s fallible and vulnerable so we are able to identify with him on a personal level. But he is also what we aspire to be in many ways: smart, adventurous, charming, and always fighting for the good guys!
Nrama: What’s a piece of the fictional collection that stands out?
Bowling: Every visitor will probably have their own personal favorite Indiana Jones film item that is on display, but for me, I remember watching Raiders of the Lost Ark when I was a kid and being completely mesmerized from start to finish. I probably saw it ten times in the theater. So to see the actual Ark of the Covenant prop that was used in the film…I still get goose bumps when I see it.
Nrama: What’s a piece of the real collection that stands out as well?
Bowling: There are some truly remarkable artifacts in the exhibition. You can get a sneak peek of some of them on the exhibit’s teaser website: www.indianajonestheexhibition.com. It’s not easy to pick just one, but I guess I’d have to say my personal favorite might be the Mesopotamian cuneiform tablet with a map on it. It’s one of the oldest known maps in the world – how cool is that?
Nrama: Where will the exhibition Tour?
Bowling: The exhibition, which is presented by National Geographic and produced by X3 Productions premiers at the Montreal Science Centre April 28, 2011, then it will head across Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. We’ll be announcing each of its eleven remaining locations at appropriate times in the tour and very soon, we will be announcing the location of its European premier, so please stay tuned!