Peabody Place Museum Grows Through Community Outreach
Located on the concourse level of the Pembroke Square
Building in downtown Memphis is the Peabody Place Museum, the region's
only museum dedicated to Chinese art. The museum, which opened on October
15, 1998, became a foundation through the donation of pieces of art from
Jack and Marilyn Belz, who began collecting Chinese art in 1968.
The approximately 12,000-square-foot museum is a permanent home to over 600 works of art, including jade sculptures, intricate ivory carvings, cloisonne' and ancient bronze ceremonial vessels. The bulk of the permanent collection centers on objects created for Chinese nobility during the Quing (Ch'ng) Dynasty and constitutes one of the United States' most extensive and rare collections of 19th Century Chinese art.
Since opening, the Peabody Place Museum has continued to grow. Under the new leadership of Nancy Knight, director of the museum, Jennifer Barr, assistant director, and Jane Malton, director of group sales and special events, the museum has recently implemented several programs that focus on community outreach.
"In addition to our permanent collection, we have been working very hard to bring in a number of rotating exhibits that will add to the museum's appeal," said Knight.
In August, the museum opened its first temporary exhibit, entitled A Legacy Unearthed: Early Chinese Clay Burial Figures, featuring 20 rare clay burial sculptures and tomb furnishings dating back to China's Han Dynasty in 206 B.C.
According to Knight, the items represent one of the most distinctive aspects of Chinese ceramic history. It was during this time that the practice of burying clay models with the deceased originated and continued for several centuries.
Much like the customs of the Egyptians, Chinese tomb furnishings were reflective of the wealth, status and interests of the deceased and were often objects replicated from the deceased's life. The Chinese belief in an afterlife, one in which the pleasures and activities of the living world continued, fostered the crafting of models or spirit gods called minqui (pronounced min-key) which often included renderings of attendants, entertainers, pets and warriors.
The staff has recently established several other museum programs specifically designed for students in the community. "This year, we implemented a new educational program developed especially for Memphis-area schools," said Knight. "We are providing teachers with lesson plans and learning materials that are tailored to each specific grade. Once a class reviews the lesson, it can visit the museum to see firsthand the cultural objects they are learning about in the classroom."
"We also are going to establish a space in the museum for local students to display their artwork," continued Knight.
Prior to visiting the museum, teachers can request an activity guide, which is full of classroom activities, stories and vocabulary terms designed to prepare students for their visit. Parents and teachers can also check out a series of discovery kits that contain books, videos and hands-on activities.
In an effort to reach a larger portion of the Memphis community, Knight and Barr are participating in the Arts in the Park Festival for the first time this year. They also are developing a membership package for the museum, which will hopefully bring additional funding for new programs and more rotating exhibits.
In addition to Chinese art, the museum is home to other rare art pieces, including Judaica, Russian lacquer boxes, Italian mosaics, European contemporary art glass, and rare gemstones, minerals, and fossils. Favorites of visiting school children are scholar rocks, the 100-million-year-old dinosaur egg found in China's Henan Province, and the 210-million-year-old fossil of a prehistoric four-legged bird. Because of its unique and interesting collection, the museum has become a well-known local attraction and a "must-see" tourist destination.
Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 a.m.
to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5:00 p.m. Admission
is $5 for adults, $4.50 for seniors, and $4 for students. For information
on special group rates, guided tours, educational programs, teacher's
packets and special event room rental, contact the museum at 901-523-ARTS,
or on the Web at: www.belz.com.