If you do not act fast, you could miss your chance-your last chance-to see and experience the world of King Tutankhamun, reveled boy-ruler of ancient Egypt.The exhibition, which has been held at the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Center City, Philadelphia since Feb. 3, will be leaving the United States forever on Sept. 30 and heading for its final stop in London. It has already made stops in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Chicago and Los Angeles.
This is the first time in nearly 30 years that ancient Egyptian artifacts have been allowed out of Egypt. After the first touring exhibit returned to Egypt in 1979, Egyptian parliament, after being notified of minor damage incurred by one of the artifacts, passed a series of laws prohibiting the travel of items from Egypt’s ancient tombs outside of the country.
Three years ago, National Geographic, as well as the two other aforementioned groups, petitioned the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities to allow the artifacts outside of Egypt. The result is the largest, most extensive collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts the world has ever seen. It is showcased in the long-awaited exhibition entitled, “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs.”
The artifacts featured in this tour, which has stirred up “Tut mania” in the cities it has visited thus far, have been restricted by Egyptian law from leaving the country for the last three decades. Previous exhibitions, such as the massive, record-breaking one of 1972-79 (1976-79 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) focused more on the tomb’s discovery in 1922. This time around, exhibition directors, including National Geographic, AEG Exhibitions and Arts and Exhibitions International, wanted to place Tut in his own time and focus on the religions, politics and culture of his era.
The exhibit features more than 130 artifacts that are each more than 3,000 years old. About 70 of the artifacts have been traced back to Tut’s ancestors and close relatives, while the remaining artifacts have been directly traced to Tut himself. All of them were found in the massive underground tomb unearthed by archeologist Howard Carter in 1922.
Featured in the showcase at the Institute are items ranging from cosmetics cases to dog collars to knives. Coffins and miniature tombs built especially for Tut and his royal predecessors were among the artifacts protected by armed guards.
The guards, hired by the institute to protect the most sacred and priceless antiques, were armed with pistols and at the ready, in the unlikely event that something were to unfold. “No photography is permitted. If you take a picture, you’ll be taken out,” an armed guard said when asked if a photograph could be taken of one of Tut’s masks, so long as a flash was not used.
When I took out a notebook to take down some information about the mask, the guard approached, “No drawing or sketching it either, you’ll be removed.”
Over 2.5 million people have seen the current King Tut exhibit, and almost half of them have seen it in Philadelphia. More than 1.2 million tickets have been sold to date to people from all over the world that have come to see the exhibit at the Franklin Institute.
Jeff J. Simon is a third-year student at West Chester University majoring in Communication Studies with a minor in Journalism. He can be reached at QuadEIC@wcupa.edu.