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For A Rainy Day: Traveling the Silk Road

March 22, 2010

Traveling the Silk Road website

It looks like the storm clouds have settled in over the city for the next few days.  Need a little escape to sunnier landscapes?  Head to the American Museum of Natural History to pick up your passport and immerse yourself in an epic journey along the Silk Road.  Traveling the Silk Road: Ancient Pathway to the Modern World is a beautifully concepted and crafted exhibit that engages all of your senses.

The 4,600-mile-long Silk Road was not one road, but a network of trade routes that spanned snow-capped mountains, deserts, raging rivers, tree-shaded oases and fabled cities. The exhibit highlights four cities — Xi’An, Turfan, Samarkand and Baghdad — to tell the story of the trade route, with displays, models and artifacts representing each city and culture. A series of yurt-like tented spaces wind you from Xi’an, the capital of China’s Tang Empire to  Turfan, a lush oasis town in the middle of Central Asia’s Taklimakan Desert, then on to Samarkand, the city of merchants, before reaching its final destination in Baghdad, the one time capital of the Islamic world and a renowned center of learning.  Stamp your passport at each new destination as you see live silk worms spinning cocoons, smell perfumed oils sold at the markets in Turfan, listen to folktales and traditional music learn about paper and glass production and caravaning.  The Silk Road was a critical cultural pathway that Ellen Futter, the Museum’s president, describes as the ‘internet of the ancient world’. Navigating your path through the exhibit reveals that it was indeed a magic and mysterious world-wide web all its own.  Traveling the Silk Road is jewel-like and evocative.  Combined with a visit to the Butterfly Conservatory, it’s the perfect antidote to the Spring grayness of a city in transformation.

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