Spurlock goers ‘dig’ barbarians

By Jane Louis

History is coming to life this week at the Spurlock Museum.

“Digging Barbarians,” a new exhibit that opened Tuesday, tells the story of what life was like in early medieval France through the museum’s large collection of artifacts from this era, according to Beth Watkins, education and volunteer coordinator at the museum.

The exhibit focuses on the time period near the end and after the fall of the Roman Empire. It features pottery, swords, knives and jewelry that were found in 16 tombs in France from the medieval era.

“It is a really fascinating time period,” Barb Oehlschlaeger-Garvey, exhibit curator, said. “It’s much like our own.”

According to Oehlschlaeger-Garvey, the exhibit answers the question, “What does it mean to be a barbarian?” The term “barbarian” usually is used in a derogatory way, she said, but in this case it is used correctly. Often the difference between a barbarian and Roman cannot easily be seen.

Oehlschlaeger-Garvey said many similarities exist between the Barbarian time period and now.

“We don’t lose the old ways,” she said. “We transform them.”

The exhibit, run in conjunction with a seminar at the University entitled “Romans, Barbarians and the Transformation of the Roman World,” presented by the Conference on Shifting Frontiers in Late Antiquity on March 17-20, is scheduled to be at the Museum through July 30.

If the exhibit is well-received by the community, however, it will stay as long as people like it, Watkins said. Admission is free.

Also at Spurlock this week, Cherokee Indian storyteller Gayle Ross will be giving a storytelling concert on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Ross, a nationally recognized storyteller and award-winning author, will be performing Native-American stories, and Northern Cheyenne performer Larry Lockwood will present a drum and song show.

Storytelling is an interesting way to learn about the past, according to Kim Sheahan, assistant director of education at the museum. It helps history come to life, she said.

“It is one of the easiest and most engaging ways to learn about someone, by hearing their stories,” she said. “Passing that culture to other people – it is a very exciting thing.”

Ross has given performances across the nation, from grade schools and libraries to college campuses, storytelling fairs, Kennedy Center presentations and White House galas. Being able to adapt to different audiences is what makes a storyteller interesting, Sheahan said.

“All good storytellers will tell to all parts of their audience so there will be stories for everybody,” she said. “Stories are not just for kids.”

Ross will also be giving a workshop for educators called “Seeing Red: Beyond the Stereotypes of Native America” on Saturday at 9 a.m. at Spurlock. The workshop is designed to help teachers, librarians and other educators identify what is authentically Native American in education materials. It will inform educators about what images and representations of Native Americans are appropriate, Sheahan said.

Admission for the storytelling concert is $5. Tickets can be reserved in advance by calling the museum at 333-2360.

The cost of the workshop is $30, and pre-registration is required. Contact Sheahan at 244-3355 for more information.