Visions of the End
Monday, February 3, 2020. Visions of the End Gallery in McClung Museum. "Elder of Apocalypse Window," c.1240-45, made in France. This figure represents one of the twenty-four elders described in the Book of Revelation as belonging to the group who might rule in Jesus's name during the final epoch.

UT is presenting a new series, “Apocalypse UTK,” which will be held throughout the semester. The series is occurring in conjunction with the “Visions of the End” exhibit in the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture.

The exhibit showcases artifacts from numerous time periods, including ancient books, drawings and busts. These artifacts have been collected from some of the most important museums across the United States.

Professor Gregor Kalas and former Professor Jay Rubenstein approached the McClung Museum with the idea of the “Visions of the End” exhibit.

The word 'apocalypse' originally meant revelation. The inspiration behind this exhibit stems from John in the Christian Bible’s Book of Revelations, whose writing on the Greek island of Patmos includes the description of a battle between good and evil forces.

John’s writing took place around 100 C.E., and he predicted the end of time. As displayed in “Visions of the End,” this writing has inspired thousands of works of art. The pieces in “Visions of the End” were created to display what artists envisioned as humanities’ end of time.

Catherine Shteynberg, the assistant director and curator of arts and culture collections at McClung Museum, explained her staff’s reaction to the proposed exhibit.

“We were immediately intrigued and moved ahead with the collaboration. To pull off an exhibition of this magnitude, with such important objects from some of the U.S.’ most important museums, takes an incredible amount of planning,” Shteynberg said.

Shteynberg explained that the years of planning required to put on an exhibit as large as “Visions of the End” were worth the difficulty.

“These kinds of efforts always pay off when we are able to collaborate with departments across campus to bring in interesting programming, and when so many students get to work with this art, which has never traveled to the Southeast, in their courses,” Shteynberg said.

Kalas and Rubenstein worked with the Marco Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies alongside the McClung Museum to pull this exhibit together.

Kalas highlighted the extensive different museums whose artifacts can be seen in the exhibit.

"This exhibition provides the relatively rare opportunity for Knoxville audiences to enjoy some of the treasures of the Glencairn Museum in Bryn Athyn, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Morgan Library and Museum, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, the Philadelphia Free Library and the Walters Art Museum," Kalas said.

“Visions of the End” allows UT to consider the Book of Revelations and the depth of its meaning, and the exhibit has been drawing people in to think about the artifacts and their significance, Kalas explained.

"The whole campus is joining in on an intellectual project of discussing apocalyptic thought, reflecting both on concepts of the end times while also confronting the more pragmatic challenges of climate and disease,” Kalas said.

Kalas emphasized that professors of different departments have been able to all come together to converse about this intriguing theme.

“It is truly exciting to have professors of anthropology, microbiology, religious studies and medieval and renaissance studies come together around a theme that allows the exhibition to spark conversations among faculty, students and the public," Kalas said.

As part of the series, courses diving into the theme of the apocalypse and what the destruction of humanity truly means are currently being offered throughout several departments on campus. The courses range from humanities-based subjects, such as revenge drama, to more scientific classes, such as astrobiology.

Additionally, several speaking events and workshops will be held on campus throughout the semester as part of the “Apocalypse UTK” series.

Ultimately, the “Apocalypse UTK” series and the “Visions of the End” exhibit bring together science, religion and arts, allowing students to stretch their minds.

For more information, contact Gregor Kalas at You can also visit the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture in person, to learn more about and view the “Visions of the End” exhibition.

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