Dr. Gareth Brereton （The British Museum）
“‘The greatest king you’ve never heard of’: exhibiting Ashurbanipal at the British Museum”
Dr. Jonathan Taylor（The British Museum）
“The library of Ashurbanipal, king of the world”
‘The greatest king you’ve never heard of’: exhibiting Ashurbanipal at the British Museum Gareth Brereton
At a time when public attention was again directed towards a devastating conflict in Iraq, the British Museum developed the major exhibition ‘I am Ashurbanipal: king of the world, king of Assyria’, which opened in London between November 2018 and February 2019. This exhibition explored the world of ancient Assyria through the life and legacy of its last great ruler, King Ashurbanipal. On his ascent to the throne in 669 BC, Ashurbanipal inherited a vast and diverse empire, the heartland of which was situated in present-day Iraq. This talk will reflect on the exhibition’s development, delivery and public reception. A formative evaluation of the exhibition concept showed that public knowledge of ancient Assyria was very limited. Feedback from the evaluation groups informed the exhibition structure and narrative themes. To better engage with visitors, the exhibition combined immersive displays with narrative driven content to present the story of Ashurbanipal’s reign in an accessible and engaging format. The exhibition provided an opportunity to experiment with object display, narrative content, lighting and design, all of which can inform future redisplays of the British Museum’s Assyria collections.
The library of Ashurbanipal, king of the world Jonathan Taylor
The single most important group of cuneiform texts ever found is the remains of what was once the collection of Ashurbanipal, King of Assyria, King of the World. In the 7th century BC, he assembled what has been celebrated as the first universal library in the world. It has formed the platform on which the field of Assyriology was founded, and has continued to grow. 170 years after its discovery, there is still a lot we don’t know about the collection. Displaying such an iconic, yet highly enigmatic, collection poses many challenges. Related research now promises to help us finally begin to understand what the ‘library of Ashurbanipal’ was.