Helen C. Evans talks about planning the exhibition Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition and her role as a curator at the Museum.
Directed, shot, and edited by Gabriel Chazan, Nicholas Geisler, and Kaiyan Griffith as part of the 2011 Art and Film summer workshop for teens at the Museum.
This film was a collaboration between The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Film Academy.
Helen Evans: I'm Helen Evans, and I'm the Mary and Michael Jaharis Curator for Byzantine Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. A curator is the person in a museum who is responsible for the research on the acquiring of the display, to a great extent, of the works of art that that museum possesses. The exhibitions that we do at the Met are generally exhibitions that try to make people think in new ways about objects and to reconsider traditional ideas.
Narrator: In Helen's new Byzantine exhibit, she aims to challenge the idea that there was ever a dark age.
Helen Evans: "Dark Ages" is a simplistic view of cultural transition, and it's very seldom totally true that there is a dark age.
Narrator: In order to prove her point, Helen must borrow artwork from countries around the world.
Helen Evans: We are borrowing from the Eastern Mediterranean, which is at this moment in turmoil.
Narrator: When borrowing from countries in upheaval, transporting the artwork is a great risk.
Helen Evans: I don't want to ask to borrow something that somebody might shoot at.
Narrator: But this obstacle doesn't deter Helen from getting the artwork that she needs.
Helen Evans: I find figuring out questions about objects to be wonderful fun—and where they come from, both who made them but also why they were made. As the curator you can get so involved with the sequencing in your mind, and the importance of strange little funny-looking things, that you forget that the whole rest of the world have to have a very long lecture on it. We hope people will come to the exhibit. I hope people will be interested in seeing how cultures transform; I hope people like you will come because it's an interesting question that we have displayed in a way that makes you interested in the conclusions we draw.