By Dan Majka
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A new exhibit at The Franklin Institute uncovers the amazing story of one of the world’s greatest leaders and most misunderstood conquerors. Genghis Khan: Bring the Legend to Life takes visitors on an unforgettable journey into the legendary Mongol Empire and its founder.
“This exhibit really attempts to explain Genghis Khan,” says Troy Collins, Senior Vice President of Earned Revenue, Marketing and Operations at The Franklin Institute, “not only as a great military leader, but as an inventor of tools, policies, practices, religious freedom and really the impact of his conquests and what they had on the world and the descendents of both Genghis Khan and the people that he ruled over.”
Collins says Genghis Khan as a military leader is intriguing to many people and how he was able to achieve his victories is interesting to folks, but the goal of the exhibit is much deeper.
“We want them to walk away with a more comprehensive picture both on his impact of that region, on society and even the modern world today,” he says. “The Franklin Institute tells stories in a theatrical manner using authentic objects. If people have been to exhibits such as Pompeii, Cleopatra or King Tut, they’re going to see a similar style here, and they’re going to walk away with a very good picture of Genghis Khan and his impact.”
The idea came from Philadelphia-area dinosaur guru Don Lessem, who discovered the genius of Khan while exploring Mongolia and set out to share the story of the real Genghis. Collins says years later, The Franklin Institute is the exhibit’s first northeast stop on an international tour.
“For the past five years it’s been seen by over one-million people already in three countries and ten venues,” he says, “so it is not a perfectly brand new exhibit, but it has certainly been customized for The Franklin Institute.”
The exhibition features more than two-hundred stunning artifacts; most never-before-seen and recently gathered from private collectors in Mongolia, Azerbaijan, and the United States.
“Some of the objects that the public will be able to see not only include some of the weaponry that was used by Genghis’ armed forces, but also household items, clothing, textiles, pieces of art, household tools and the like,” Collins says. “Many pieces of clothing, including robes, monuments and other documents that were used during that time.”
Visitors will get a close up look at one of the world’s earliest guns, a sword carried by one of Marco Polo’s guards, along with a 12-foot crossbow and flaming arrows used by the Mongolians. Collins says the exhibit will allow to people to discover Genghis Khan’s legacy as both a ruthless warrior and a revered statesman.
“He’s an important historical figure,” Collins says. “And not only will the exhibit focus on some of the bad that he did, it will focus on some of the good. But the most important is that people come in with an open mind and they get to learn, and by the time they leave, they will have a much better picture of his impact, as well as hopefully some more questions that they want to research themselves about a very pertinent leader.”
Murals and video projections allow visitors to experience the sight and sound of warriors on galloping horses in battlefields. There are also several interactive elements, including firing catapults and computerized role-playing. All of this letting visitors explore life in 13th century Central Asia.
“The goal of this exhibit, like most of our other exhibits is to inspire a passion for learning about science, technology, history, anthropology, archeology,” Collins says. “The Franklin Institute is a place of learning, and we hope that people come, they enjoy the exhibit, they’re entertained by it, but that they also walk away with a feeling of passion, a feeling of wanting to learn more.”