The National Society
Magna Charta Dames and Barons
 National Society Magna Charta Dames®
Somerset Chapter Magna Charta Barons®

P.O. Box 4222, Philadelphia, PA 19144

Telephone: 215-836-5022; Fax 215-836-5056


Magna Charta

Walk Through the Exhibition
Houston February 14, 2014


Magna Carta, a special exhibition, consists of two sections. The first section serves as an introduction to the Middle Ages. As is customary with anthropology and history-related shows at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, visitors are offered timelines and maps to situate when and where events occurred. At the entrance of the presentation, patrons see two timelines: one more general with references to events in other parts of the world, and one timeline focused on Magna Carta. 


The exhibition elaborates on various aspects of medieval life. What did a poor peasant family own? What about a more affluent person? Hygiene (or lack thereof) is discussed in another portion. Face riddles: a series of flip cards outline treatments for certain conditions. Flip the card and you learn what the diseases are. Writing was a talent possessed by few. What materials were used to write on, and write with? See samples of parchment and a scribe’s desk. Trades are represented; the work of the blacksmith is particularly highlighted in the special show. He was the person that made most of the tools and weapons in a community, and was a very important individual. Visitors also learn about the range of textiles and dyes in use during this period. Two mannequins – one dressed as a poor peasant boy and one as the boy King Henry III – invite comparison between the haves and the have-nots.


Also, the weapons portion in this initial section is extensive: what did a fully dressed warrior of this period look like? (Are we really dealing with knights in shining armor, or were things different?) Lift a carefully rigged life-size jousting spear and get a feel for the challenges a knight faced when going into battle. Then, see a brief video introducing King John and the Magna Carta, setting the stage for the second section of the exhibition.


Magna Carta's story, as developed in the second hall, is divided into three parts. A family tree starting with William the Conqueror and ending with Edward III covers the years leading up to King John and the monarchs who issued revised versions of Magna Carta in later years. A nine-feet-long beautifully made replica of the Bayeux Tapestry helps to expose the French roots of the ruling English class. An original version of the 1217 Magna Carta and the only surviving original of the 1215 King’s Writ form the core of this hall. A full translation of all the clauses of Magna Carta, as well as of the King’s Writ, is provided. An interactive touch screen allows visitors to identify those clauses that are still in place today, some 800 years after the document was sealed. A wall text forms the third and last section in this room. It discusses the legacy of Magna Carta, specifically with regard to the American Constitution.


Finally, visitors learn more about Hereford Cathedral, its history and its archives towards the end of the exhibition. Music and chanting especially made for the Magna Carta by the Hereford Choir can be heard in this final section and guests see a video on the cathedral as well as have a chance to read books on the church and Hereford and leave their impressions in a special guestbook.


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