In 2015, the RD Milns Antiquities Museum will interview a number of Museum staff, curators, volunteers, interns, and students for our monthly e-news. This month, to celebrate the opening of Cyprus: An Island and A People, we've interviewed one of our Guest Curators, Dr Judy Powell.

Judy completed a PhD in Classical Archaeology at The University of Queensland and was a Fellow of the Australian Archaeological Association in 1994. She went on to work for nearly twenty years in cultural heritage management in Queensland and was, for a time, Head of Cultures and History at The Queensland Museum.
 
Can you tell us a bit about your role with the Museum and with The University of Queensland?
My career in archaeology began at UQ and as a student I guided groups of high school students through the museum. Although I worked in Queensland museums and cultural heritage management and am an adjunct lecturer in the School of Social Science’s archaeology program, my first love is the prehistoric Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean world. This is where my journey in archaeology began.
 
What was your favourite part about working on the Cyprus: An Island and A People exhibition?
My first excavation experience was in the 1980s at the Neolithic site of Tenta on Cyprus and I’ve always loved objects from the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods.
 
In writing text for the exhibition, I enjoyed revisiting stories about Cyprus – both ancient and modern. While researching the life of Australian archaeologist Jim Stewart – for the biography Love’s Obsession (Wakefield Press, 2013) – I discovered that the modern history of Cyprus is just as fascinating and complex as its multi layered ancient and medieval past.
 
Why is Cyprus so important to the ancient world?
In the Bronze Age the simple answer is copper. Mining has always been important to the island and copper ingots from Cyprus are drawn on New Kingdom Egyptian tomb walls. Ships carrying cargoes of Cypriot copper have been excavated off the southern coast of Turkey.
 
And look at the island’s geographical position! Geographically it lies at the centre of the Eastern Mediterranean – close to Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt. Mycenaean Greeks occupied the island at the end of the Bronze Age, Cyprus was a Roman province, the Franks ruled it during Medieval times, the Ottomans for three hundred years and finally the English established it as a Crown Colony. Cyprus continues to have a strategic importance, which is why the British maintain military bases there.
 
Despite these foreign influences, however, the island and its people have always been distinctively Cypriot. It’s a wonderful place.

Why do you believe museums are valuable in today’s world?
Objects have emotional power. I think we all understand this – when we are reluctant to discard our grandmother’s favourite teacup or our grandfather’s set of carpentry tools. Objects are our link to the people we knew and loved, to the people who used them.

Material objects in museums allow us to enter into other worlds, to imagine people from places and times not our own. In a world that often seems obsessed with the here and now - with ‘selfies’ or the latest update on Facebook - that can only be a good thing.
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