The Discovery of King Tut - New York

Born in Arizona got a condo made of stone-a King Tut (sort of) is on 5th ave right now!

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My son is studying Egyptian history in seventh grade social studies and my daughter and I are currently reading the second book in Rick Riordan's Egyptian-themed series The Red Pyramid, so when given the opportunity to visit an exhibit about Tutankhamun, we were all in.( Well, except for the seventh grader, who decided to take in the car show instead. His loss!)

The exhibit is at Premier Exhibitions, housed in the bottom floors of an unassuming office building on fifth avenue a short walk from Penn Station. The exhibit is called The Discovery of King Tut, which made it easy to assume that is was at Discovery Times Square. The vibe is similar: there are just two exhibits here (the other is about Saturday Night Live) and the presentation is more theatrical than your average museum.

The whole thing had me humming a little Steve Martin Ditty from 1978, which referenced the King Tut mania when some of the actual items from King Tut’s tomb came to the United States. Tut wasn’t born in Arizona, but he sure did have a condo made of stone-a. And by stone-a I mean stone. And by condo I mean tomb.

This particular exhibit has traveled the world, making stops in Paris, Seoul, Amsterdam and Berlin. It is made up of 1,000 reproductions of items found in the tomb King Tutankhamun (or King Tut). Its a little disappointing that they are not original artifacts, but once you consider that the originals are currently forbidden from leaving Egypt, it is totally understandable. The exhibit also shows in great detail everything about the tomb. The press materials state that Tutankhamun’s treasure is in the Cairo Museum while his tomb remains in the Valley of the Kings. But both of those are featured here.

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For this exhibit, visitors are all given headphones and an audio device. We could use them to listen to numbered displays at our own pace. Some of them played in full once we input a corresponding number on our audio device, while others joined video presentations wherever they happened to be when we arrived.

The exhibit starts with a timed viewing of a short movie about Howard Carter, who first discovered Tut’s tomb. After that we stayed in a group to see three reconstructed rooms from the tomb, treasure precisely placed as it was found. The rooms were packed to the brim, and the haphazard placement of equipment for the afterlife was not unlike the way back of this mom’s minivan on the way to a family vacation.

After the three rooms, visitors continue at their own pace with their audio tours playing in headphones. The resulting quiet felt like reverent silence appropriate for a burial setting.

A highlight of the exhibition for us was the recreation of the room in which Tut was actually buried. The exhibit brought to life the puzzle that presented Carter when he discovered it: A room that was almost filled with three successively smaller tombs, in which a sarcophagus was inside a coffin that was inside yet another coffin, finally containing the mummified remains of 19-year-old King Tut.

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Though it was chock full of historical detail, the exhibit also allowed for some touching, lots of walking and a good amount of things that brought the details to life, such as a recreation of Tut’s skeleton displayed about two feet from the ground horizontally, so it was easy to appreciate how small he was (about the size of my 11-year-old daughter).

The Discovery of King Tut is scheduled to run through May 15th at Premier Exhibitions, 417 5th Avenue. Tickets are $29 for adults and $20 for children (they are $15 for all on Museum Mondays).  For more information visit their website.