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Indiana Jones, The Eternal Explorer: The Politics of Archaeology, Empires, and Exploration

Evening Program

Session 2 of a 5-Session Lecture Series

Thursday, January 4, 2018 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. ET
Code: 1B0232
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)
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British archaeologist Howard Carter cleaning the second coffin of Tutankhamun, ca. 1924

Indiana Jones is an appealing figure: a handsome, thoughtful professor by day, swashbuckling savior of the world’s archaeological treasures by night. Although Jones is fictional, many of the major themes in the film franchise that celebrates his exploits are reflected in the stories of significant archaeological expeditions and missions of exploration throughout the world, from the excavation of Pompeii in 1750 to the Cold War-era race to the moon. Indy as both a familiar movie character and an archetype offers a fascinating lens though which to examine the political controversies and historical contexts of archaeology and exploration.

Justin M. Jacobs, associate professor of history at American University, leads the expedition into real-life and Hollywood-style history. He is the author and producer of a book and documentary series, Indiana Jones in History: From Pompeii to the Moon, which uncovers the politics of antiquities, exploration, and empires.


Why Does That Belong in a Museum?

Without his signature phrase—“That belongs in a museum!”—Indiana Jones would be little more than an unprincipled tomb raider. Museums have served to justify the removal of untold treasures from around the world and into some of the most famous collections of the Western hemisphere. Jacobs traces the institutional history of the modern museum and its relationship with archaeologists—and soldiers—in the field, from the Louvre and British Museum to the Met and Smithsonian. Non-Western institutions such as the Bulaq (Egypt), Janissary (Ottomans), and National Palace Museums (China and Taiwan) are also discussed.

To view the full lecture series description or view other sessions, click here.

Other Connections

Take a look at “The Great Belzoni” episode the Indiana Jones in History documentary series by Justin M. Jacobs. It tells the story of Giovanni Belzoni, an Italian circus strongman who in the early 19th century undertook the first major archaeological expedition to Egypt and introduced the art and culture of the pharaohs to the Western public.