In our ephemeral, digital world where everything is mediated through a computer screen and summoned by the click of a mouse, ancient objects in dusty old museums are essential to future of learning. In the late eighteenth century, a clay fragment from a piece of the world’s oldest literature overturned orthodoxies and advanced knowledge of the past. It’s an important lesson: evidence from the past will help us to rethink what we know which is never complete. Ancient history and the tangible artifact – something real, not virtual – will take us out of the cloud and bring us back down to earth.
Tiffany Jenkins is an author, academic, and ex-columnist for the Scotsman. She wrote the critically acclaimed Keeping Their Marbles: How The Treasures Of The Past Ended Up In Museums And Why They Should Stay There, published in 2016. She is the writer and presenter of the 2016 BBC Radio 4 series, A Narrative History Of Secrecy. She has been a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics, and was previously the director of the Arts and Society Programme at the Institute of Ideas. Her first degree is in art history, her PhD in sociology.