Prepare to be transported to the most celebrated trade route in human history inside Fernbank Museum’s newest special exhibit, Traveling the Silk Road, on view Sept. 28, 2019, through Jan. 5, 2020. Expect immersive re-creations of ancient settings, including life-size models, artifacts and hands-on activities that tell the story of the extraordinary people and cultures interacting during the route’s golden age, from AD 600 to 1200.
Named for the treasured fabric that attracted traders from all over the ancient world, the Silk Road stretched from the far reaches of China through the cities and empires of Central Asia and the Middle East. It acted not only as a conduit for material goods but also for scientific knowledge, technological advances, folklore, art, history, and religious beliefs through contact among many peoples and cultures. Traveling the Silk Road brings new insight to modern notions of globalization and multiculturalism, exploring a time when the information superhighway was a network of land routes stretching 4,600 miles across blazing desert sands and snowy mountain passes.
“When people think of the Silk Road they tend to focus primarily on the trade of silk and other material goods, but it was so much more than that, said Fernbank Museum’s Vice President of Programming & Collections, Dr. Bobbi Hohmann. “With the movement of people came the spread of ideas, beliefs, and technologies, ultimately impacting cultures in extraordinary ways.”
Inside the exhibit, guests journey to four pivotal ancient cities along the route: Xi’an, the capital of China’s Tang Dynasty; Turfan, a verdant oasis and trading outpost along the Silk Road; Samarkand, a center for prosperous merchants who thrived on the caravan trade; and Baghdad, a cosmopolitan hub of commerce and scholarship that flourished as a leading intellectual center of the time.
Along the journey, visitors of all ages will experience an array of wonders:
- Wander through a re-creation of a night market in Turfan and discover stalls overflowing with the goods—including sapphires, silks, jades and rubies, furs and peacock feathers, and fruits and spices—that would have captivated travelers over a thousand years ago during the city’s heyday.
- Come nose-to-nose with three life-size camel models decked out in full caravan regalia and loaded with trade goods amid a scenic backdrop depicting a landscape of sand dunes.
- Enjoy a story in Samarkand where a computer-animated book brings to life tales that travelers might have told along the Silk Road, such as “The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs” or “The Lion and the Hare.”
- Walk through a 41-foot long replica of the prow of a full-sized model Arab dhow sailing ship, split in half to reveal the priceless cargo of ceramics and elaborate metalwork that would have been traded or transported from workshops in China during the Tang dynasty.
- See a massive replica of a Tang-era loom (which, at 17-feet long and 9.5-feet high, is still only 80 percent the size of a full-size loom) from the China National Silk Museum in Hangzhou, which demonstrates the final step of weaving fabric from silk thread.
To explore the Silk Road even further, Fernbank Museum is hosting a Silk Road Opening Day event on Saturday, Sept. 28 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Enjoy themed, hands-on activities and a meet-and-greet with a live camel. Additionally, guests can explore China’s panda research as a young cub is released into in the mountains of Sichuan in the 3D IMAX® movie, Pandas, opening in Fernbank’s Giant Screen Theater on Nov. 1 (separate ticket required).
Tickets to Traveling the Silk Road are included with museum admission (free for members; $18-$20 for non-members). Fernbank Museum is located at 767 Clifton Road NE in Atlanta. Fernbank is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ticket and visitor information is available at fernbankmuseum.org or 404.929.6400.
Cover photo: James Shackelford