Traveling the Silk Road at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Later on Friday, we received another treat because we were invited to the opening reception of the “Traveling the Silk Road” exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History because Margaret W. Wong and Associates Co. was one of the Proud Cultural Sponsors of this wonderful exhibition that took the traveler “1,000 years back in time to experience the spectacular sights, sounds and scents of the greatest trade route in history.”
In reality, the actual Silk road was a collection of multi roads and tributaries while the exhibition at the museum focuses on just one of the main Silk Road trade routes which on a modern map goes from Xi’an in Central China to Turfan in Northwestern China and on to Samarkand, Uzbekistan, and Baghdad in Iraq.

As the travelers (us) journey down the simulated road they have an interactive experience while learning about such things as how silk was created, the musicians who played along the silk road, various religions that interacted with each other, stories told along the road such as “the goose that laid the golden eggs”, why camels were suitable for this adventure, various foods that were consumed along the way, the process of making paper (which was a Chinese invention, by the way), and the rise of shipping and the methods of shipping cargo to name just a few things.

We got there early and walked around for a little while and talked to Larry Siegler who knows both Margaret W. Wong and our marketing manager, Gordon Landefeld and is a member of the Rowfant Club, which is a book collector’s club that Gordon is involved in and does the newsletter for. Mr. Siegler was disappointed that Gordon was not here with us tonight.

Before most of the anticipated 450 people arrrived at 6pm, Ms. Evalyn Gates, Executive Director and CEO of the Museum, spoke to a few of us at the entrance of the exhibit. Ms. Gates said that this exhibit was about “helping people understand the world around them and the intersection of cultures.” She told us that Cleveland is the first city in this part of the United States to have this exhibit which was organized by the American Museum of Natural History in New York. She thanked all of the sponsors and supporters for their help in bringing this exhibit to Cleveland.

In fact, one of the things that made tonight so special for us was the genuine appreciation expressed toward Margaret W. Wong for being a supporter of the museum and this exhibition. Ms. Gates privately told us how much she appreciated Ms. Wong reaching out to her and welcoming her to Cleveland when she first came here years ago.

Mr. Robert Koontz, Director of Development for the Museum, thanked Ms. Wong and said that just having someone like Ms. Wong as a supporter enhances the integrity of the museum which means so much more to them than just dollars and cents.

Just outside the Naturalists’ Lab, we encountered Mr. Chace Anderson, President of the Board of Trustees, who told us to enjoy ourselves because “we’re got something for everybody here tonight. You can either travel the Silk Road or stay here with the animals.” As it turned out, throughout the evening we did both as we traveled the Silk Road at least twice while also enjoying the other exhibitions including the Naturalists’ Lab which is a favorite of the children who visit the museum with their families. For a while we relaxed in the lobby and listened to some beautiful Chinese Guzheng music performed by Rosa Lee.

We also talked to Todd Welki, Chief Financial and Operating Officer of the Museum, who also knows Gordon Landefeld and participated in one of Gordon’s nature ventures/hikes. Mr. Welki was disappointed that Gordon was not here with us tonight.

Around 6:30pm everyone gathered in the Murch Auditorium for the evening program which consisted of performances by the OCA’s Dragon Dance Club 12 Person Dance Troupe, Yin Tang of Yin Tang Dance who danced in classic Tang Dynasty costume, and Antara Datta who performed “Kathak” which is one of the eight leading forms of Indian Classical Dance.

And then there was Bob Jackson, who is a Cleveland native and good friend of Ms. Wong and also a “scholar, writer, collector, and adventure traveler” who spoke for about 20 minutes and put the whole “Traveling the Silk Road” exhibition into perspective. He said that he was inspired to explore from the time he read about Marco Polo when he was a child and grew up nurtured by such authors as Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson. What makes the Silk Road so special, said Mr. Jackson was that it captured the “spirit of exploration”-it wasn’t so much about getting from one place to another it was the journey itself because people from different lifestyles and culture were brought together and there was an interaction that otherwise would not have taken place. He compared traveling the Silk Road to an expansion of consciousness, “we travel because human nature says we want to see what is over the hill.” We also travel because we want to explore other cultures, and perhaps most importantly “other states of mind.”

But the most profound thing that Mr. Jackson gave to us was his likening of the Silk Road of yesterday to the computer internet of today as he said that the Silk Road was like the internet “in slow, slow motion”. For us, this was a moment of enlightenment and we went back and walked then Silk Road again with this observation in mind which made it an entirely different, more enriching experience for us than when we first walked it.

Just before we left we relaxed at a table and visited with Beth Pfohl who also knows Gordon Landefeld and is also part of Rowfant, Gordon’s book club. Ms. Pfohl was disappointed that Gordon was not here with us tonight.

At this point, let it be said that everyone at Margaret W. Wong and Associates is happy, indeed, to be working with such a personable, talented, multi-faceted individual as Gordon Landefeld who was praised this evening on several occasions.

It had been an invaluable evening in every sense of the word and as we were walking to our cars we thought about what Mr. Jackson said as he concluded his presentation which was that he had actually traveled and explored different sections of the ancient Silk Road but today it is physically mostly dust but the “silk roads of the imagination will live on forever.”