The sites James Phillips excavates date back a million years, but he works daily to make things new at Chicago's Field Museum.
An anthropologist and professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Phillips will speak at 10 a.m. Jan. 16 at the Woodstock Opera House, 121 Van Buren St., as part of the Woodstock Fine Arts Association's Creative Living Series.
A curator at the museum since 1995, Phillips now works in Turkey, Israel, Egypt and Sudan, and is embarking on a project to revise the Field Museum's Ancient Egypt exhibit, last rebuilt in 1988.
While museum visitors will return for special exhibits, they're not as likely to return to visit permanent exhibits again and again, Phillips said.
"So we, all museums around the world, are wrestling with the idea of making things fresh," he said.
Yet, doing so, costs money. A revamping of the Ancient Egypt exhibit, for instance, has been estimated at roughly $10 million. Because of this, museums must work to fundraise and remain relevant, Phillips said.
He'll touch on topics such as these as part of the Creative Living Series, which brings in speakers annually on numerous topics. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, this season's series will include many speakers affiliated with the historical arena.
Through the years, organizers have brought in writers, chefs, philosophers, artists, musicians, television personalities, photographers, decorators and poets, among others. The series has not had a speaker representing the Field Museum in two decades, organizers say.
Eager to accept the invitation, Phillips said his presentation likely would focus on the basics of why museums, even individuals, collect. With 22 million objects, the Field Museum hosts one of the largest collections in the world. Phillips can offer a personal tour of the institution.
"I'm going to talk about the history of collecting in some ways and some ideas about why museums exist and what value they have and how we can improve," he said.
Social media has impacted the influence of museums, but at the same time, they're taking advantage of the outlets to draw in patrons and researchers.
"We want people to look at our website. We want virtual visitors, shall we say," Phillips said.
Along with his current curating and excavation projects, Phillips has curated the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, as well as Cleopatra, Eternal Egypt, Mammoths and Mastodons, the Lod Mosaic and The Horse. He was co-curator of the Lascaux III exhibit.