Ancient Objects for Modern Dilemmas

14 October 2015

Verena Hewat is a friend of RSN who has come up with a creative way of raising money support our work with young people affected by displacement and crisis. She writes:

We decided we wanted to raise money for Refugee Support Network after I undertook some fantastic mentoring training with them. I was really shocked to learn about the difficulties some of the young people they work with face on a daily basis. Many of them have become disconnected from their childhood with loss of family, friends, home, possessions, status, language and culture. Their immediate past is mostly one of trying to survive violence and terror, arriving in the UK with an accompanying loss of identity. I have a background working in mental health and really wanted to find a way to raise money that may support the amazing work of the Refugee Support Network and help the young people make sense of their past so they can begin to work towards a new future for themselves. 

Ancient Objects for Modern Dilemmas is a collaboration between myself and artist Vic Macrae. We "match" ancient artefacts with people seeking inspiration.

We are currently “matching” our friends and family with objects inspired by the British Museum's Middle East collection to raise money for RSN. In return for a donation, we provide a unique drawing of a specially selected artefact, plus a personalised write-up including its history and why it was chosen, based on a theme or dilemma the donor provides. 

I lost my father a few years ago. He was a great collector of objects which were all kept tucked away in cabinets. Unfortunately, it was only after he died and my brothers and I began emptying the cabinets that I got to wondering about their provenance and what they might have meant to my father. I guess it was a way for me to try to make sense of the world at a difficult time.

This interest in artefacts eventually led me to run object handling sessions at the British Museum. This involves engaging visitors from all over the world in discussions about various artefacts and the cultures they represented. I am continually humbled and moved by how and why different objects resonate with people’s lives. They can communicate messages about our own life and how we reflect on it, and can often hold a poetic meaning far beyond the intention of the people who made them. They have the capacity to put individuals in direct contact with their creators, connect strangers, and to remind us all of our shared heritage.

This experience made me look at these objects in a very different way and I found myself continually making connections between the objects and aspects of the lives of the people I love: “matching” them in my head. I enjoyed it and looked for a way I may be able to develop the idea... and so with the help of Vic Macrae, we came up with “Ancient Objects for Modern Dilemmas”.

In my regular wanders around the British Museum I became fascinated by the ancient Middle East. My previous knowledge of the area was mostly informed by the modern political situation, however the artefacts in the gallery showed a very different world to me. The objects from ancient Mesopotamia especially, seem to show such joy and youthful fascination with life. Vic and I really liked the idea of trying to re-create something beautiful from those areas of the world that are now sadly so often associated with violence and conflict.

Vic and I are both big letter writers and wanted to use quite an informal, personal letter style for the write-up of each object. We connect with the objects on an emotional level and although we ensure the history of the object is very much tied into the text, we are especially interested in finding connections that may not be immediately obvious in a purely historical context. 

I absolutely love Vic's artwork and her drawing style seemed perfect for the project. I was so pleased when she agreed to work on it with me. I feel her drawings have a special magical quality to them that really complement the objects and bring them to life.

We’re excited by the way that "Ancient Objects for Modern Dilemmas" both plays to our strengths and raises funds for RSN, enabling them to support more young people to build more hopeful futures through education.

Please note: Donations are very welcome! However at the moment, due to the amount of time it takes, we are only providing matches to our friends and family. If you would like to find out more, we would really love to hear from you!  You can email us at: or follow us on twitter @ancientobjects


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