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Institute for Cultural Practices

Out of the Woods

An exhibition at The Manchester Museum, November 2013 - April 2014.

AGMS students with their 'Out of the Woods' exhibition at the Manchester Museum
AGMS students with their 'Out of the Woods' exhibition at the Manchester Museum.

MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies students collaborated with the Manchester Museum in 2013-14 to curate this exhibition which explored different ways people interact with, relate to, and benefit from trees around the world. The students, in four groups, responded to the overall exhibition theme with four separate, yet interconnected, displays.

In Praise of Trees

Historically, trees have been symbolic of many things to different people all over the world. This display explores the importance of trees within Japanese culture. While all trees carry symbolic value in Japan, the cherry tree in particular has been widely used within Japanese popular folklore and material culture. The objects and books on display here, all featuring the cherry tree, indicate this widespread use. The extremely beautiful, yet short-lived nature of cherry blossoms, or 'Sakura' as they are known in Japan, means that they are often associated with mortality and are used as an enduring metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life.

Wood Fortune

Throughout history different cultures have invested trees with the possession of special qualities. Trees have been considered lucky, magical, powerful, symbolic and protective; shielding the believer from misfortune. Although many of these beliefs have been forgotten or are considered irrelevant in today’s world, in many cultures it is still common to see people touching wood for luck. By introducing a few examples of the power of wood in this space, this display explores how trees bring luck, offer protection and guard from misfortune.
Has wood ever brought you good fortune?

Unearthly Roots: Sacred Trees Around the World

sacred |ˈsākrid | 
adjective
 connected with God (or the gods) or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration [worship] (Oxford American Dictionary, 2013)

People around the world have maintained a spiritual connection with trees for thousands of years. Some cultures see the tree’s cycle of growth, death, and rebirth as a symbol of human life. We hope to show a selection of sacred trees from different parts of the world illustrating the universal human bond with the natural world.

Can you think of other trees around the world that are considered sacred?

Olea Europaea: The Olive Tree

The olive tree, initially nurtured in ancient Mediterranean cultures, has grown over the millennia to have its two branches of commodity and symbol affect the day to day lives of most of us.

The olive tree's leaves, fruit and oil, may appear in everything from Mexican burritos to Chinese tea. As a symbol the olive branch and wreath, like two sides of the same coin, represent both peace and victory.

Here you can see how deeply rooted the olive tree is in our world. These are very real things we share in our lives, gathered in the olive tree's shade.