The World’s Oldest Museum

The world is a very old place.  Human civilizations have been around for a long time, too — we just tend not to think about it unless something reminds us.

One reminder is the story of the world’s oldest museum, which was established in the city of Ur 2,500 years ago.  It was discovered in 1925, when an archaeologist was excavating a Babylonian palace and found some neatly arranged objects from many different times and places.  The archaeologist thought he might have discovered a museum, and he confirmed that conclusion when he uncovered the world’s oldest known label for a museum exhibit, in the form of a clay cylinder, pictured at right, with text written in three different languages.  The museum was established by a Princess named Ennigaldi, at a time when the Babylonians — whose civilization stretched back thousands of years — were obsessed with their past.

At first blush, it seems strange to think that people living in 500 B.C. would be interested in studying history — but there is no reason why they wouldn’t find the story of humanity as compelling as modern people do.  The story of the Babylonian museum reminds me of a passage I read in The Story of Civilization series of books by Will and Ariel Durant.  In the book about ancient Egypt, they quoted a passage from a world-weary Egyptian writer who lamented that the world was old and that everything worth writing had been written already.  His lament was written about 2500 years before Shakespeare.

The Penny Chronicles

My name is Penny.

When the weather starts to get cold, I always want a good stick.  Sticks taste better and snap better when it is cold.  When the leaves fall, usually sticks fall, too.  I just look around in the leaves until I find one.

I like to carry a good stick in my mouth for a while.  Then I chew on it.  I like it when the wood breaks with a snap.  If I can bring a stick inside, I will chew it until it is broken into many pieces.  The pieces get soggy and small, and usually the bark has fallen off.  By then I’m ready for dinner.

I leave the pieces of the stick for the old boring guy, but he doesn’t seem to like sticks as much as I do.

The Curious Attraction Of Refrigerator Magnets

Refrigerator doors are a large, empty canvas waiting to be filled.  You arguably can tell more about a person from careful study of their refrigerator doors than you can from looking in their medicine cabinet.

No refrigerator magnets?  Almost certainly a soulless, insufferable neatness freak, or perhaps an android hurled back in time to kill you and change the future.  A collection of brightly colored sayings about friendship purchased from the local Hallmark store?  Run away screaming, because you are about to be enthusiastically “chippered” to death.  Large, magnetized photos of the host and his family, with a magnetized mirror besides?  Time to reread the Greek myth of Narcissus.

Even in less obvious cases, the magnets can tell you a lot.  Does the person have very nice, sturdy magnets that they’ve purchased or cheap magnets they received from the dentist’s office or the dog boarding service that can’t hold up the weight of a fly’s wing?  Are the magnets richly decorative, or strictly functional like shiny binder clips, or a mixture of both?  Do the magnets tell you where the person has taken a recent vacation, or give a glimpse of her religious beliefs?  Do they hold up kid art from your sentimental host’s now fully grown children?

Of all the detritus we accumulate during our lives, nothing is quite so evocative as our refrigerator magnet collection.