Preserving Maya Heritage with The British Museum


We often talk about the future of the human race. But the question I have is what can we learn from our shared past? If we’re going to move forward as a global community we need to think about how we can learn from our shared ideas and values and to do that we have to preserve that culture. The ancient Maya were an incredible culture. In many ways modern ideas of urbanism sustainability and good governance were being pioneered by the Maya thousands of years ago. In the 1880s an extraordinary British explorer called Alfred Maudslay travelled from London to Guatemala. This journey would help introduce the Maya to the world. Maudslay harnessed the technology of this time to become a pioneer in visual communication. Alfred Maudslay developed the first glass plate photographs of ancient Maya sites and created the plaster casts we have today. For more than 130 years these incredibly fragile casts have been protected here in the stores. This is one of the original Maudslay casts and you can see these glyphs of ancient Maya writing that have untold stories to tell. The Maya as a culture developed a completely different type of civilisation than we’re used to. Maya hieroglyphs were only translated in the 1980s and only a handful of people can translate them today. Therefore understanding of the ancient Maya is increasing exponentially. Our best opportunity to preserve the originals is to digitally capture these casts and reflect on a moment in time unobtainable in any other way. What I really love about this collaboration between the British Museum, Guatemalan government and Google is that we’re continuing Maudslay’s journey of using new technology to capture and communicate the powerful stories that Maya have to tell. The big difference now is that for the first time these stories will be available to everyone everywhere. We all have so much more to learn from our shared past and technology is changing how we can do it. It’s radically altering the role of an international museum, which can now reach millions of people around the world. It’s an exciting future!

3 thoughts on “Preserving Maya Heritage with The British Museum

  1. There are loads of typos in the subtitles on this video – pay particular attention to the dates!!! Kind of detracts from the experience of learning about history!

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