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Exhibitions Home | Current | Upcoming | Past | Virtual

Modern Mongolia: Reclaiming Genghis Khan

July 3, 2002 – December 8, 2002

Museum: Natural History Museum

Location: Special Exhibitions Gallery, 1st Floor, Center (Hall 10)

Mongolian life from the beginning of the 20th century to today is reconstructed through 3 authentic gers (traditional Mongolian yurts or tents): under feudal (Manchu Dynasty during the early 20th century), Communist (during the 1960s), and today's democratic times. The legacy of Genghis Khan -- independence and the foundation for building a true democracy -- is woven throughout the exhibition. Mongolian costumes and artifacts -- including a replica of an 8-ft. deer stone monolith, regarded as a talisman by the Mongolian people -- complement the exhibit. 4 dioramas re-create 20th-century Mongolian life:

  • The Manchu Dynasty: The ger depicts a wealthy home of the early 20th century, with felt carpeting, a rustic bed, Chinese hearth, fully equipped kitchen, Tibetan Buddhist altar, and items associated with a herding livelihood.
  • Communist Period: The ger shows nomadic life in the 1960s and the effects of communism, including the change in clothing from silks to cotton and the absence of religious objects. A video explores the transition from communism to democracy.
  • Modern Period: The ger depicts Mongolians as they live today, with a mix of old Soviet and new international dress, newspapers, an English language study book, and a return of religious objects.
  • 21st-Century Urban Life: The final diorama depicts the interior of an urban apartment, where a TV plays interviews of an urban teenager, young herder, businessman, and pensioner as they describe their lives and speak of the future.


  • Introductory film discusses the democratic aspects of Genghis Khan's principles
  • No photography permitted.
  • Free brochure
  • Related book: $34.95 (cloth), $17.95 (paper)
  • See related article in November 2002 Smithsonian magazine, p.34,36
  • This exhibition is related to the 2002 Folklife Festival theme "The Silk Road."