There’s a great story by Ed Yong over at The Atlantic about the fact that, as he explained on Twitter, “hundreds of undiscovered species lurk in the drawers of museums.” Natural history collections, Yong writes, are actually “time capsules that contain records of past ecosystems that are rapidly changing or disappearing. They are archives that provide clues about raging epidemics, environmental pollution, and hidden extinctions. And they are full of unknown species—like the sacred crocodile.” Check it out. If you like natural history museums as much as I do, meanwhile, you might also enjoy Richard Fortey’s book, Dry Storeroom No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum.
One thought on “Time Capsules”
As a result of looting after the fall of Baghdad, 20 new lines (including some essential context in one scene) of the Gilgamesh epic were discovered, on a sherd sold back to the Sulaymaniyah museum: http://www.openculture.com/2015/10/20-new-lines-from-the-epic-of-gilgamesh-discovered-in-iraq-adding-new-dimensions-to-the-story.html. Basically, it’s the situation Ed Yong describes in his piece, but for ancient literature. Or, the museum heist as an archaeology of archaeology.