Samurai Exhibit at DAM Explores Who the Samurai Were


The samurai were the warrior class in Japan from the 12th-18th century. While they technically served under the emperor at the time, according to curator Tianlong Jiao, they were the real rulers of the time. They are also the focus of the latest temporary exhibits at the Denver Art Museum (DAM). The collection exhibited belongs to the Barbier-Mueller family, and is thought to be one of the best and most complete collections in the West, encompassing a variety of armour, few weaponry, and the only complete set of armour in the West, belonging to the Mori samurai family. An excellent use of the space in the Hamilton building, the show has examples of samurai at home, horse armour, battle armour, different variations on helmets, and some swords, as well as one gun, all collected from different families, the banners of whom are displayed in the entry hall. Though geared at young people, the main exhibit would probably not excite young children.

This setback was, however, thought of, and audiobooks are for rent at the door. There is a more indepth version, geared at adults, as well as an audiobook for younger museum goers. This family audiobook is narrated by the Japanese deity tengu, who watches over the warrior, and teaches children how to ‘be a samurai’. At the end of their visit, children will receive a gift that ties into the Family Fun Center, and can be personalized in one of the activities there. The Family Fun Center holds five activities tied into the Samurai exhibit, including a mural of Japan with items from the exhibit, a guessing game, dress-up, and other activities, all tying into the Samurai: Items from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller exhibit and appealing to families, with a target age of 3-12.

The ‘Samurai’ exhibit is a good surface look at the samurai of Japan, but the exhibit itself is mainly appealing to adults. While children over the age of six may be remedied of this problem by purchase of the family audiobooks, which are amusing and interactive, the exhibit would still not appeal to very young children. On the other-hand, the Family Fun Center would appeal to almost anybody, as the mural would amuse almost anybody, and while many games would appeal to very young children, most of them can be altered to make them more fun for adults. One of my only problems with the exhibit, however, is that it is a rather surface glance at the samurai, presented in a way that would not hold the attention of someone with untoward knowledge of the samurai because it does not offer many specifics on their lives, or even duties beyond fighting, but focuses more on the superficial aspects of their armour and fighting style. I therefore recommend this to everyone 6 and up with a limited to basic prior knowledge of the subject.