Everyone loves Indiana Jones. He’s so damn charismatic, handy with a whip, and he knows his ancient relics. Don’t you wish you could be him? Well, consider the achievement of your childhood dreams one step closer because The National Geographic Museum is presenting an exhibit that will teach you everything Dr. Jones knows about archaeology, artifacts, running from boulders and mummified bodies. It won’t teach you how to be charismatic, though. That kind of charm is something you’re born with.
The “Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology” exhibit at Nat Geo is meant to be an interactive experience. Upon admittance you’ll be presented with a headset and tablet that will play additional information, video or film clips that correspond to the section of the exhibit you’re currently in. A life-sized wax model of Harrison Ford dressed up as Indy stands at the entrance of the exhibit, and Harrison Ford himself provides the first supplemental audio welcoming visitors.
Beginning with Raiders of the Lost Ark, the exhibit follows the Indiana Jones franchise culminating in the 2008 installment Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Each film-themed section of the exhibit is followed by a section about an actual archaeological dig, discovery, or ancient culture. Stunning artifacts from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology have been loaned to Nat Geo for the exhibit. Gold jewelry found at a dig at the Royal Cemetery of Ur in Mesopotamia circa 2500 b.c., drawings of death pits by archaeologist Leonard Woolley, Sanskrit tablets, ancient Greek coins, Nazcan pottery and more are on display along with prop artifacts from the movies.
Speaking of which, all of the coolest props from the films are on display. Videos, story boards, photography and other film materials are on lend from the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. A golden fertility goddess idol, the headpiece to the staff of Ra, full costumes including famous whip, the lost ark itself, Sankara stones, the Holy Grail, a Thuggee priest headdress, the crystal skull and an entire giant crystal alien skeleton on a throne are among the props and set pieces displayed. Through the headset and tablet provided, visitors learn fun facts about the films like how the sound of the giant boulder in Lost Ark was recorded, or how the cast and crew shut down Disneyland for a day to record sequences of Temple of Doom.
The idea behind the exhibit was to inspire an interest in archaeology by taking the magic of the films and not only giving a behind-the-scenes look, but also showing examples of archaeological discoveries and drawing connections between the films and real history and science. Many of the stories about actual ancient civilizations and culture are as interesting and bizarre as the ones in the film. The Nazcan people, for example, etched hundreds of colossal figures of animal and spiritual beings they worshiped in the dry earth, creating giant replicas of paintings found in small scale on their pottery. They also practiced ritual decapitation! If the idea of discovering thousands of mummified heads at a dig site doesn’t inspire an interest in archaeology, I don’t know what will. Maybe an entire mummified body of a conquistador? Creepily enough, there’s one on display at the exhibit.
The handheld audio device idea is cool. By typing in a three-digit number on the keypad that corresponds to a certain artifact, film clip, prop or set piece, visitors will be able to choose which parts of the exhibit they want to learn more about. It allows you to peruse at a comfortable pace, plus it packs in way more information than the exhibit does alone. Also interesting is the design of the exhibit, which has visitors follow winding paths into different rooms and dead ends, and is relatively dimly lit, evoking the feeling of exploring a cave or temple.