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Notes from the Director

As I write these notes, a team of staff and students are adding the final touches to our newest exhibition, “The Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii: Ancient Ritual, Modern Muse,” which is scheduled to open this evening (Oct. 2) in the Kelsey and the Museum of Art. This spectacular show features the splendid Maria Barosso watercolor replicas of the villa’s ancient frescoes, commissioned by Francis Kelsey in the 1920s and stored in the Kelsey Museum virtually unseen for more than seventy years. The exhibition represents more than two years’ preparation of the watercolors and research on the frescoes, as well as the cultic activities that they represent. Due to scheduling and space constraints, the show will be on view for less than two months, so I urge you all to put it on your “must see” schedules sooner rather than later.

Two other exhibitions will be opening at the Kelsey this fall. “Gender in the Ancient World,” curated by Terry Wilfong (October 13­–27), celebrates the opening of the new quarters of the Women’s Studies Program and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender in Lane Hall. Opening December 8, “Animals in the Kelsey!” will highlight objects from the Kelsey’s collections that show us the various uses of animals in the ancient diet, as both producers and sources of foodstuffs. All three exhibitions give us a chance to show off the hidden treasures of the Kelsey’s collections, many of which, like the Barosso watercolors, have not been displayed since the Museum’s opening. We also have underway a full program of outreach activities, lectures, and family days to bring these shows to the widest possible public (see the calendar on page 4).

The latest news on the Museum’s fieldwork program comes from my own work at Tel Kedesh in northern Israel this past summer. Working with more than 60 students, staff, and volunteers from the Universities of Michigan and Minnesota, we uncovered the remainder of the Hellenistic archive room first discovered in 1999. We now have a total of about 2,300 seals from this archive, making it one of the largest collections ever excavated in situ. The finds include unique bilingual stamps in Greek and Phoenician. The seal pictured here even gives the name of the city in Greek and illustrates its chief products—grapes and grain. Plans are proceeding for more Museum-sponsored fieldwork at this productive site in the coming summer, as well as a winter 2001 excavation by Janet Richards at Abydos in Upper Egypt.

In summary, I am once again pleased to report that the Kelsey Museum continues active and productive in the multiple areas demanded of a university museum-research, teaching, preservation, and outreach. The proper balance among these interrelated arenas is tricky to determine and even trickier to maintain, with innovation and change being essential elements in the mix. We are constrained in our efforts by limitations in space and resources, but thanks to the hard work of an exceptional staff and a dedicated core of Associates and volunteers, the Kelsey continues to explore in new directions while not neglecting the old.

—Sharon C. Herbert, Director