Last week the British Museum asked its staff to share inspirational stories and powerful objects from the Museum’s collection. The Museum asked participants to take to Twitter and explain why their object inspires them.

We were very happy to see lots of members of the ITP network get involved. We have collected the ITP contributions to share them on the blog!

Saeed Ba Yashoot, Documentation Collections Curator, Seiyun Museum, Yemen. ITP Fellow 2016
Rose-water sprinkler

This object, a rose-water sprinkler, is just one of many related to the Hadhrami culture donated to the Museum by the late Ms. Leila Ingrams and her parents who lived in the Hadhramaut region of the Aden Protectorate (later part of Yemen) during the 1930s and 1940s.

I was inspired by the story behind this object and its similarity to objects at my museum. This sprinkler, made in India and taken to Hadhramaut, helps us understand the link between the Hadhrami community and the Indian Ocean. The people of Hadhramaut travelled the Indian Ocean region and East Africa for many centuries, and when emigrants returned back to their homeland they brought objects with them which would influence their home cultures.

View the rose-water sprinkler on the British Museum website.

Aprille Tijam – Senior Manager, Exhibitions and Collections, Ayala Museum, Philippines. ITP Fellow 2019
Altarpiece

Looking at this 18th-century Philippine retablo – an altarpiece from the Ayala Museum Collection with elaborate wooden framework enclosing religious sculptures – allows me to step back in time when life was perhaps less complicated. I appreciate the natural beauty of the local wood transformed by artisans with beautifully hand-carved estofado design, simulating local foliage. I admire how creative the artisans were, with no computers to aid them, in putting together this huge altarpiece with wooden pegs alone, akin to Lego bricks.

I reflect on the role of this altarpiece which served as sanctuary to parishioners for more than 300 years.  It provided them solace where prayers were offered, allowing momentary quiet and peace in their hearts for the difficulties in life. For me, the retablo represents faith in a powerful being.

Jessica Harrison-Hall, Head of Chinese Section and Curator of the Sir Percival David Collection, British Museum ITP Department Representative for Asia
Chinese porcelain flasks

Keats was right “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, —that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” He was referring to another type of ceramic vessel – a Grecian urn – but I think of his immortal lines when I look at these beautiful blue-and-white porcelains, with designs of birds resting on blossoming branches. They are delicate, but they also represent strength, specifically the strength of the ties between nations.

They were made in China, yet the form of the moon-shaped flask derives from Middle Eastern glass, while the geometric borders are copied from the patterns found on Middle Eastern metalwork. They inspire me to think of beauty and strength simultaneously, and the links between the two.

View the Chinese porcelain flasks on the British Museum website.

Loretta Kilroe, Project Curator: Sudan and Nubia, British Museum ITP Department Representative for Egypt and Sudan
Namrata Sarmah, Project Curator, Directorate of Museums, Government of Assam, India. ITP Fellow 2018
Nagwa Bakr, Community Engagement Officer, Ministry of Antiquities, Egypt. ITP Fellow 2019
Neal Spencer, Keeper, Nile Valley and Mediterranean Collections, British Museum
Shreen Amin, Director, Children’s Museum, Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt (ITP Fellow 2016)

Shreen’s inspiring objects are part of the LEGO exhibition in the Children’s Museum of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. There the museum presents fun activities for children to make heritage fun. Shreen looks forward to continuing these activities once lock-down ends.

Read Shreen’s inspiring object tweet here.

See some of these inspiring objects and more on the British Museum blog.