A new exhibit in the McMullen Museum called Portugal, Jesuits, and Japan: Spiritual Beliefs and Earthly Goods displays 70 unique works of art. The McMullen Museum? You know, the mysterious, dimly lit, nearly empty room on the first floor of Devlin? See, you know what I’m talking about. But have you ever been inside the museum? Well, here’s your chance.
The new exhibit allows the viewer to travel "through the complex landscape of religious ideas, customs, and artistic styles that typified the nanban period." This "nanban period" referred to in the Museum's press release roughly translates to "southern barbarians." These works of art display how the Japanese viewed Jesuits and Portuguese as they began to seek trading posts and spread religion throughout the land.
Now I bet you're just itching to get over to Devlin and see these ancient pieces of art for yourself, right? Maybe not, but I bet you will be after I give you four reasons why visiting this exhibit is worth your time.
4. Jesuit history
This is particularly relevant considering that we have a new pope! How apropos! Attending a Jesuit school like BC comes with a lot of perks, many of which students take for granted. This exhibit highlights a period of history where Jesuits and missionary work had a profound influence on a developing society, and demonstrates some of the Church's first attempts at adapting to a new culture. Seven folding screens tell the story of how Jesuits built churches that were influenced by Japanese architecture and how the Japanese viewed the Jesuits and Portuguese. As students of a Jesuit institution, visiting this museum will open your eyes to the beginnings of the spreading of the Catholic faith and integration of Japanese culture into practices of the faith.
Having visited the museum myself, I can say from personal experience that the pieces on display there are among the most unique and awe-inspiring I have ever seen. Besides the seven magnificent screens, there are pieces of furniture, lacquer ware, military equipment and artifacts such as maps and texts that give a more complete story behind this time period. Pieces adorned with precious metals and intricate carvings display the melding of Japanese and Catholic traditions. They are unique pieces, unlike any art I have seen because they tell a story which I otherwise would not have known.
2. Free and convenient
Let's be honest, odds are you walk by Devlin Hall at least once a day. We already established that you have seen the curious, dark room. This museum is housing some extremely rare and precious pieces that other museums would probably love to have and charge people a bundle to view. Portugal, Jesuits, and Japan will be on display past the last day of classes and is free to both students and the public. These pieces are parts of both private and public collections and may never be on display together again! Take advantage of the perks of those tuition checks that your parents write off every semester.
1. It's for your own good
In today’s world, museums aim to engage and educate patrons through their exhibits. Maybe the last thing you want to do with your free time is go learn some more, but think about this: some of the most interesting facts you have ever learned (the ones you think are cool enough to whip out and impress someone with at a moment's notice) were learned outside of the classroom.
Maybe on television, in the newspaper, on a Snapple bottle cap, and yes, in a museum. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates 70 percent or more of work-related learning occurs outside formal training, and museums have been developing the informal learning process in order to better engage visitors. That's why curators spend so much time and effort setting up the exhibits in the first place. If the display isn't effective, odds are people won't learn a thing. Whether you realize it or not, stepping out of your normal routine and enriching yourself for a few minutes could really do you and your brain some good.
Bottom line is, there is absolutely no reason not to take a look at this exhibit. Open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the week and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends, the exhibit is available to the public as well and offers anyone that visits it a chance to experience a story told through art in a truly meaningful way.
Screenshots by Emily Akin/Gavel Media