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Henry Moore Institute

Object Cultures

Object Cultures

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This publication records more than three years of collaboration between the Henry Moore Institute and the British Museum, which resulted in exhibitions on inscriptions, unidentified objects, masks and magic.

Here curators Stephen Feeke (Henry Moore Institute) and James Putman (The British Museum) introduce the collaboration as a whole, before moving on to more detailed essays on each of the four exhibitions:

The Sculpted Word: Inscriptions from the British Museum

From the earliest time in human history pictorial signs have been recorded in stone and clay. This exhibition examined the art of inscribing as a sculptural process, involving carving, making or engraving words or pictograms, in varying degrees of relief and often in durable materials.

Unidentified Museum Objects: Curiosities from the British Museum

Objects in museums are usually defined by their former function, and viewers are accustomed to being told what something did or how it was used. But when the experts are unable to confirm what something is, colour, texture, shape and material seem more noticeable; and moreover, we are free to speculate for ourselves.

Changing Face: Masks from the British Museum

Today, the mask is a largely forgotten cultural artefact in the west, worn primarily for protection or amusement. Yet, with an almost universal distribution around the world, and in existence since Palaeolithic times, masking is fundamental to notions of identity and society.

A Kind of Magic: Talismans, charms and amulets from the British Museum

From the earliest times, talismans, charms and amulets have been held in high esteem, the urge to invest objects with magical powers dating back into prehistory. Since then, the belief in potent objects has become near universal and, in a diluted form, can still be witnessed today at the core of superstitious behaviours.

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