During a recent trip to Naples, we took the opportunity to take our friend and my son to Fort Lauderdale to view the traveling exhibition of Egyptian materials related to King Tut. Most recently this exhibit was in Los Angeles. It will be here in Florida until April or May.
First the good points: this makes a fine exhibition for either the novice or the expert reviewer of Egyptian artifacts. There is relatively little material associated directly with Tut, neither the mummy, the sarcophagus, nor the death mask is present in the exhibition, despite the misleading advertising that suggests the presence of the latter. What we do see are some of the pectorals and jewelry that were within the wrappings on Tut's mummy, some of the materials from the burial chamber and a few canopic jars. This sounds paltry, but believe me, they are worth seeing for their intrinsic interest and for their great beauty.
The remainder of the exhibition covers the Pharoah before Tut who attempted to impose a monotheistic system on the Egyptian people. Tut's reign was viewed as a restoration of the traditional system of worship.
The final rooms of the exhibit recreate the actual burial chamber both in size and in the diagrammatic layout of the burial arrangements. The last room is dedicated to new research on Tut that suggests that he may not have been murdered by his successor. However, I have been advised by people more attuned to the news in this field that the particular theory espoused is a bugbear of the exhibit coordinator and is not to be taken too seriously as objective research.
Now for the downside--the exhibit is poorly managed and poorly run. While there are a limited number of tickets for viewers during each time period, those limited tickets are still too many. Each gallery is overly crowded and movement between parts of the exhibit space is slow and difficult. Often it was hard to get a good look at some of the piece without waiting for five, ten, or more minutes.
We arrived about a half-hour before our entry time and were ushered to a line where we waited until well past our time. We were shown the way to some stair where we climbed and waited for another fifteen or twenty minutes before we went in to see a short context-setting film. Afterwards we entered the exhibit.
The museum really needed more forethought in preparing the exhibition. In addition, the exhibit materials were written not so much to educate the public as to placate specialists in the field with the net result that many of them were nearly incomprehensible to the audience they should thrill most--school-age children. I'm not suggesting that exhibits be written down to that age, but I am suggesting that there are ways to construct exhibits so that all might benefit from the knowledge being bestowed. However, this complaint is not unique to the Tut exhibit.
None of these criticisms should be viewed as in any way suggesting that one should avoid this rare opportunity. As the Islamic fundamentalist world becomes more vehement about the eradication of the non-Muslim past (view the Taliban's horrendous destruction of the Afghan Buddhas) such relics may become more rare, and certainly our opportunities to view them will be curtailed. I cannot recommend heartily enough the value to be derived from attending and enjoying such a wonderful exhibition. Those who live in Florida should make plans to try to see it.