Interview Conducted by Henderson
Dr. Emily Teeter has been in love with museums ever since she could remember. Her mother, a docent, would take her children from museum to museum and expose them to the newest wonders of the ancient world.
One of the most memorable of these visits came in 1962, at the Seattle Art Museum, when the Treasures of Tutankhamun traveling exhibit came to town.
One of the world’s most popular exhibits in the early 60’s, Emily Teeter was one of just over a million people with a front row seat to Egyptian magnificence, featuring some of the best examples of Egyptian culture to date and including the pristinely preserved gold death mask of the “boy king.”
After that, I guess you could say she was hooked. From that point on, Dr. Emily Teeter has been working to unlock the secret lives of the ancient Egyptians.
The Mobius Art & Science Initiative welcomes Dr. Teeter and her life-long experiences in unlocking the past.
MASI: What were your childhood experiences in museums?
Dr. Teeter: “I was always around museums…“
MASI: What is the purpose of the Oriental Institute Museum?
Dr. Teeter: “The purpose of the Oriental Institute Museum is to preserve, conserve, and exhibit objects from the ancient Middle East…”
MASI: How long have you been coordinating exhibits?
Dr. Teeter: …I really enjoy doing installations and working with museums. And it’s a big challenge because you see an empty room, whether it’s big or small, and it’s like, “well, what do you do?”
MASI: The objects are pretty fragile. What does the Oriental Institute do to preserve the artifacts?
Dr. Teeter: “We now have three conservators, and their full-time job is to care for the objects in the museum. The first line of protection for these objects is climate control…”
MASI: What role did art play in ancient Egypt?
Dr. Teeter: The Egyptians were absolute master crafstmen. The amount of art that these people generated… is just astounding…”
MASI: What was the importance of science in Egyptian society?
Dr. Teeter: The Egyptians are often attributed with having really great scientific knowledge, and mathematical abilites, and that’s not really true…”
MASI: How can we relate to the lives of ancient Egyptians?
Dr. Teeter: …we tried to recreate what her life would have been like, both at work, and at home. And this alone was kind of interesting to people, because a lot of people who came to see this exhibit had no idea that women in ancient Egypt worked…”
MASI: What do we know about the ancient Egyptians?
Dr. Teeter: “we have religious texts that talk about religious beliefs, tombs, tomb furnishings. But then we have a whole bunch of other stuff, we have contracts, we have personal letters, even things like parents writing to their kid complaining that the sent them to school and he’s hanging out in the taverns…”
**Dr. Emily Teeter received her Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Chicago in 1990, specializing in the history and religion of second millennium B.C. Egypt with emphasis on popular religion and cult ritual.
Explorer, published author, and museum enthusiast, Dr. Teeter has consulted for numerous television productions and multi-media projects. She also services as the ARCE Chicago Advisor and Oriental Institute Representative.