Throughout human history, few ideas have eluded clear definition more than the concept of time. Time-related verbs abound: we find it, keep it, measure it, obey it, take advantage of it, waste it, save it, even kill it. We use common notions of it to construct and organize our lives, and yet, do we really know what time is?
This exhibition drew upon materials from several of Harvard's important museum and library collections to explore answers given to that question in various ages by different world cultures and disciplines.
Themes included time finding from nature and time keeping by human artifice. We examined:
- cultural beliefs about the creation and end of time, the flow of time (cyclical or linear), and personal time as marked by rites of passage.
- the power of keeping communal time through music, dance, work, and religious practice.
- time’s representation in history and objects of collective memory, its personification in art, and its expression in biological evolution and the geological transformations of our planet.
Featured objects included portable sundials and precision clocks, calendars from different cultures and epochs, time charts shaped like animals, Mesopotamian, Native American, and African ritual objects, fossils, and metamorphosing creatures.
Introducing Time Trails!
While the core exhibition was in the Special Exhibitions Gallery of the Harvard Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, each member of the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture placed six to ten Timepiece labels (right) among their permanent exhibits, calling attention to the Time theme. The Time Trails smartphone app used geolocation to guide visitors to each museum and other intriguing sites on the Harvard campus.
Dr. Schechner was been ably assisted by Samantha van Gerbig, Designer & Photographer
Noam Andrews, Wheatland Curatorial Fellow.
Produced in collaboration with the other Harvard Museums of Science and Culture:
Harvard Museum of Natural History, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology,
The Semitic Museum at Harvard University
This exhibition is sponsored by
The David P. Wheatland Charitable Trust, with the financial assistance of the Provostial Fund Committee for the Arts and Humanities, and an anonymous donor.