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.

Dragons, Monk’s Caps, and Butter Tea: The Duomuhu

What can drinking vessels tell us about historical changes and relationships? I explore the trajectory of one such vessel, a 多穆壶 (duomuhu), and what it tells us about the politics of the Chinese Empire.

Rui En Pok (Rae)

7 March 2023

Preserving and Revitalising 昆曲 (Kunqu Opera) on the World Stage

Kunqu Opera, one of the oldest forms of Chinese opera, was at one point threatened with extinction. Explore stories of its revival through several collections-based projects at MAA.

Zilan Wang

21 February 2023

Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year? – Celebrating in Harmony

Chinese New Year' or 'Lunar New Year' are two intertwined terms. Although indicative of positive cultural change, their overlapping nature has sparked controversies within museum spaces.

Zilan Wang

14 February 2023

The Tea Horse Road: An Ancient Trade Route

Michael Freeman, photographer and author of the ‘Tea Horse Road: China’s Ancient Trade Road to Tibet’, explores the pressed tea bricks in MAA’s care and the longest trade route in the ancient world.

Michael Freeman

7 February 2023

‘Looks more like a dog’ – Rabbits or Not Rabbits at MAA

To mark Chinese New Year this year, and the Year of the Rabbit, we did the obvious thing and looked for rabbits in the collections at MAA. But we didn’t find what we thought we would.

Mark Elliott

31 January 2023

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

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