Too many mummies
There’s the heavily-advertised King Tut in New York, and another King Tut, in Denver; Cleopatra in Philadelphia (NY Times review, here), The Mummy Chamber in Brooklyn,* and Mummies of the World in L.A.—not to mention those other Egyptian-themed exhibits which I am certainly forgetting—and how cool would this underwater museum be??
Truly sorry. I liked the exhibit very much. You should have seen for yourself that it was a perfect balance of anthropology and art, both, fascinating and beautiful.
The story of Tomb 10A goes something like this: It was the tomb of the high officials Djehutynakhts (pronounced “je-hooty-knocked”), discovered in 1920 by a group of Harvard University-Boston Museum of Fine Arts archeologists. Inside was the largest funerary assemblage of a Middle Kingdom (2040–1640 BC) official ever found intact (despite the tomb’s having been robbed in antiquity): four coffins, walking sticks, pottery, canopic jars, wooden models of daily life, and—ew—a disembodied head. Egypt gave the entire collection to the MFA and sent it along to Boston. It met with some minor setbacks en route—not least, the collection’s catching fire—but arrive it did, only to be mostly tucked away in storage for ninety years. It was for the first time that the entire lot was on display.
Walking into the exhibit, you first saw a statue, representative of Egypt during the Middle Kingdom, stood in front of large, richly beautiful photographs of the area around the tomb. This first room set the stage: information about Egypt during Djehutynakht’s time, introductions to the “cast of characters,” and a description of how the exhibit was organized.
It told you that in the next room you’d see objects from the actual tomb, in the third room you’d see what was missing from the tomb, and in the final room you’d learn about the archeological investigations still underway on the site. I appreciated this road map of what was to come in the relatively large exhibit. It helped to keep clear in my mind where I was within its organization.
But, a question for you non-museum-design/development-types: is information like this important to you? Do you find it helpful or even notice it?
The second room, below, was by far my favorite part of the exhibit. The wooden models were all gorgeous, and I love the simplicity of the wall of boats. The artifact displays throughout were sparse and reverential, arranged simply and tastefully. Absolutely lovely.
The color palette was nice as well. (Speaking of colors, have you ever wondered about Egyptian color symbolism? Of course you have.)
* I’ve seen The Mummy Chamber too. While Tomb 10A was dark and atmospheric, Mummy Chamber is bright, bright, bright—especially on a sunny summer afternoon. It too had some nicely currated artifact cases, though I prefer the moodiness and intimacy of the MFA show. But what does the Mummy Chamber have going for it, most important of all, that Tomb 10A doesn’t? Long-term open-ness.