Digital Lab Blog

This blog aims to highlight artefacts, stories, histories, and relationships from the collections at MAA. Each post begins with an object or a collection at MAA and explores wider themes including substances of wellbeing and intoxication, process of making, mending, and conservation, digitisation and more!

Explore the most recent blog posts below or use the dropdown menu to filter posts by category. For more stories on collections from across the MAA and the wider University Cambridge Museums consortium, head to the University of Cambridge Museums blog.

More than Music: Collecting Kun Opera

Explore collections of Chinese musical instruments which began arriving in Cambridge in 1902, and have since been a part of several digital exhibition, and outreach projects.

Mark Elliott

25 January 2023

May you always have alcohol and meat

Alcoholic beverages made from fermented rice and sorghum grains were considered ritually important in ancient China. This post looks at some vessels involved in the use of alcohol in the Han Dynasty.

James Lin

18 January 2023

Brick Tea as a Form of Currency

In a previous blog post on this object, I pursued one of the clues found on its label to show that it was a product of the Russian brick tea trade in China. In this one, we look at how it functioned as currency.

Aayushi Gupta

20 December 2022

‘Square Face’: Gin, Currency, and Colonialism in Africa

Discover stories of trade in West Africa, colonial exploitation, Christianity, traditional African religious practices, alcohol consumption and prohibition through a bottle of European gin.

Mark Elliott

13 December 2022

Fancy a drink? Chicha: An Ancient Maize-Based Fermented Brew

In the pre-Columbian world, chicha (a maize brew) was a prominent alcoholic beverage. I search the collections at MAA for maize-related objects and speculate their relationship to this ancient brew.

Jimena Lobo Guerrero Arenas

6 December 2022

The Buddha, the War God, and the Pirate King

The tale of an artefact, allegedly the figure of Buddha, that brought together historical inaccuracies and stories of warfare and plunder hinted at in museum documentation around objects.

Ashleigh Griffin

6 December 2022

A Tea Brick Destined for Tibet

Ever tried to guess the flavour of tea just from looking at leaves or bricks, and without brewing them? Or even just from photographs of them? Come explore one example from the collections at MAA with me.

Shuzhen Kong (Ellen)

6 December 2022

Russian Brick Tea Trade in Hankou, China

An encounter with a Russian monogram on a tea brick from China leads to a wider exploration of the industrial production of tea bricks by Russian factories in Hankou, and their transnational trade.

Aayushi Gupta

6 December 2022

Introducing the MAA Digital Lab

Welcome to the MAA Digital Lab: an online platform through which we aim to increase and diversify digital engagement and access to the world cultures collections in the Museum.

Mark Elliott

6 December 2022

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If you'd like to get involved, then please get in touch with us at digitallab@maa.cam.ac.uk.

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