Upcoming Exhibitions

Passionate Curiosities: 
Collecting in Egypt & the Near East, 1880s–1950s
August 28–November 29, 2015

toddWhat circumstances formed the artifact-biographies of the collected objects we see in museum display cases? Passionate Curiosities, curated by Margaret Cool Root, invites visitors to meet some of the remarkable people—from eminent scientists to missionaries, from consuls to entrepreneurs, from scholars to swash-buckling adventurers—who forged the Egyptian and Near Eastern collections of the Kelsey Museum between the 1880s and the 1950s. 

The featured notables all have ties to the State of Michigan and often to the University itself. They include Samuel A. Goudsmit, co-discoverer of the spin of the electron in 1925; Harriet Conner, an unsung missionary in 1880s Cairo; Henry Gillman, American consul in Jerusalem in the 1880s; Dr. David Askren, an American physician living in Egypt who facilitated massive purchases for Professor Francis W. Kelsey; and A. M. Todd of Kalamazoo, a chemist, global entrepreneur, and utopian thinker who marketed his distilled mint products across the world at the turn of the last century. One famous dealer these figures worked with was the Lion of Cairo, Maurice Nahman.

On view will be some rarely displayed artifacts acquired through the efforts of these collectors, including large decorated Coptic tunics from Egypt and a volume from the Kelsey’s rare complete edition of the Napoleonic Description de l'Égypte. Wonderful vintage photographs help open up the fascinating backstories of some of the Museum’s most popular artifacts. Come discover who brought the Kelsey’s child mummy home from Egypt in the 1880s and who gave us the coffin of Djehutymose in 1906!


Rocks, Paper, Memory, Phase II: 
Wendy Artin’s Watercolor Paintings of Ancient Sculptures
September 25–October 25, 2015

Artin imagde

An American artist who lives in Rome, Wendy Artin has been working for over a decade on a series of watercolor paintings of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures and related subjects. Phase II of this exhibition, mounted in the Kelsey Museum Lecture Hall, will feature a selection of her paintings.

Wendy Artin is one of a long line of artists who draw inspiration from antiquity. Indeed, this tradition has very ancient precedents, such as the Roman practice of making marble “copies” of famous Greek bronze statues. Artin’s visually stunning paintings offer fresh and arresting ways of looking at ancient sculptures and buildings.

The exhibition catalogue can be purchased in the Museum gift shop or online by clicking here.


Image: Wendy Artin, Phrygian Cap (Parthenon north frieze slab XXXVII), 2010, watercolor on cotton Khadi paper, 103 x 130 cm


Leisure and Luxury in the Age of Nero: 
The Villas of Oplontis near Pompeii
February 5–May 15, 2016


Organized with the cooperation of the Archaeological Superintendency of Pompeii and the Oplontis Project at the University of Texas, this international traveling exhibition will explore the lavish lifestyle and economic interests of ancient Rome’s wealthiest and most powerful citizens who vacationed along the Bay of Naples. Julius Caesar, Cicero, Augustus, and Nero all owned villas here. With nearly 200 objects on loan from Italy, the exhibition focuses on two structures at Oplontis that were buried when Mount Vesuvius erupted in ad 79. One is an enormous luxury villa that may once have belonged to the family of Nero’s second wife Poppaea. The other is a nearby commercial-residential complex—a center for the trade in wine and other produce of villa lands. Together these two establishments speak eloquently of the ways in which the Roman elite built, maintained, and displayed their vast wealth, political power, and social prestige.


Less Than Perfect
August 26–November 27, 2016

This exhibition, guest curated by Professor Carla Sinopoli, seeks the stories embedded in imperfect objects. “Imperfect” refers both to objects that were considered failures by their makers, such as ceramic wasters, and to objects that were produced with deliberate imperfections for spiritual or other reasons. The show will feature Asian ceramics and Navajo textiles from the U-M Museum of Anthropological Archaeology, Japanese tea vessels from the U-M Museum of Art, as well as objects from the Kelsey Museum collections.


Art and Science of Healing 
From Antiquity to the Renaissance
January 6–April 30, 2017

Ancient methods for healing the body, mind, and spirit ranged from the miraculous, the talismanic, and the religious to the sophisticated knowledge of Greek medicine. In the Renaissance, however, a strict new empiricism began to draw a clear line between science and superstition. This exhibition documents this crucial transition using the rich primary source materials—amulets, gems, surgical instruments, as well as ancient and medieval texts—available in the U-M Special Collections Library, Papyrology Collection, and Kelsey Museum. Guest curator: Pablo Alvearez, Special Collections Curator