Tuesday, December 08, 2015

PAC Museum: Investigating Agatha Christie

Investigating Agatha Christie
December 8, 2015 - April 17, 2016

Pointe-à-Callière, the Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History, is presenting an original exhibition focusing on Agatha Christie, an exceptional woman whose unusual life and widely acknowledged and read novels left their mark on international literature. The exhibition looks at Christie through her work, her imagination, and her world, including archaeology. It is one of the major international events being held to mark the 125th anniversary of the famous novelist’s birth on September 15, 1890.

A world exclusive produced by Pointe-à-Callière, the Montréal exhibition features a total of some 320 items from such world-renowned institutions as the British Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. It also includes a number of Christie’s own belongings, still in her family’s possession, graciously provided by Mathew Prichard, her grandson and trustee of the Christie Archive Trust, and John Mallowan, the nephew of her second husband Max Mallowan. The National Trust, which manages Greenway House, one of Agatha’s houses that today is a historic site, also co-operated with Pointe-à-Callière.

Few people are aware that the life and work of Agatha Christie, an imaginative and adventurous woman, were intimately bound up with archaeology. It played an important part in her personal and professional life, since she was married to Sir Max Edgar Lucien Mallowan, a famous archaeologist. Between 1930 and 1960, she witnessed some major finds at ancient Mesopotamian sites in what is now Syria and Iraq, the birthplace of writing, agriculture and other innovations.

Agatha Christie was no passive spectator. In addition to underwriting some of her husband’s digs, she cleaned, classified and documented the work with her own photos and films that the visitors can see at the exhibition. Some of the artefacts handled by Agatha Christie, from dig sites managed by her husband Max Mallowan or archaeological sites she herself visited in Egypt and the Middle East, are on display.

The British Museum loaned the PAC museum a number of priceless archaeological items, some of them unearthed at digs led by her husband, where she was also present. A relief representing a sacred tree and a winged genie, engraved in the stone wall of the Assyrian palace at Nimrud, ivories, a headdress and necklaces of gold and lapis lazuli, along with other treasures from Ur, and a calcite vase, an alabaster statue, stone “eye idol” figurines and tablets with cuneiform characters, are all on loan from the prestigious British institution.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, for its part, loaned PAC museum a relief of Nefertiti and Akhnaton, a bust of Akhnaton and several cuneiform tablets, while the Royal Ontario Museum provided ivories, a relief representing Assyrian archers, and numerous cylinder scrolls, vases and cuneiform tablets.

Agatha Christie drew heavily on archaeology and history as inspiration for many of her famous novels, including Murder in Mesopotamia, They Came to Baghdad, Appointment with Death and Death Comes as the End. She also described daily life on dig sites in a memoir playfully entitled Come, Tell Me How You Live. In fact, she said that an archaeologist and a detective have much in common: both must come to understand an event (recent or in the distant past) using their observation skills and clues that are brought to light, piecing them together and relying on a bit of luck, too! Investigating Agatha Christie is an intriguing journey to a time when many of the treasures of mankind’s heritage were discovered. It is also an encounter with a passionate woman, a brilliant individual who invented a new literary genre, the historical whodunit. 

Click on images to enlarge them.
Hover your mouse over images for description and credits.

Except for the very top and the very bottom images, all other photos in this article are courtesy of the PAC museum.

Read my previous article about this exhibition here.

Visit the PAC Museum website for the upcoming Agatha Christie exhibition activities information.

Video Preview:

Investigating Agatha Christie - Sur les traces d'Agatha Christie

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