We are all familiar with the Pharaohs of Egypt, their great pyramids and lavish tombs, but the tomb that we hear most about is the tomb of Tutankhamen, who is commonly referred to as King Tut or the Boy King. In the exhibition Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs we are introduced to the great pharaohs, ancient Egyptian polytheism, ancient Egyptian gold work, the finding of Tutankhamen’s tomb, and the wonders that lay within the tomb of the Boy King.
The exhibit focused on the 18th dynasty, which spanned from 1550 to 1292 BC, all of the pieces shown and pharaohs introduced are from this time period. The exhibit was split into 4 portions. The first portion was split into 3 sub sections, the first of which introduced us to the Pharaohs of the 18th dynasty by showing examples of each great Pharaoh’s portraiture, the second section showed us interesting pieces aimed to convey what life was like in ancient Egypt during the 18th dynasty, and the third section provided a transition between the first and second portions of the exhibit. The following portion gave us pieces of religious art, and gave brief explanations of the different aspects and popular myths for ancient Egyptian polytheism. The next portion focused on gold work, which while it had a clear theme, seemed to break the logical flow of the exhibit. The final portion, which had been split into other sub portions, featured the findings from the Tomb of Tutankhamen.
The three sub-sections of the first portion were all contained within a single large well-lit room with high ceilings that seemed to mimic ancient Egyptian temple construction. The sections, which grew progressively narrower as you move through the space, were separated by pylons, which show that this section was intended to mimic the axial plan of an ancient Egyptian temple. There was also a large statue that, if you stood on the line of symmetry of the plan, faced you and was framed by the pylons, which mimics the placement of a cult statue within an ancient Egyptian temple. The colors of this portion mimic the colors of sandstone, which was used to construct the temples that the layout of the exhibit is mimicking, with the exception of the third sub-section where the pieces rested on red pedestals, which tied those pieces to the next portion of the exhibit.
The next portion, which also had the pieces atop red pedestals, laid the general framework of ancient Egyptian polytheism. This portion was contained in a notably smaller room and was much more dimly lit than the first portion, with the only lights in the room being spotlights on the pieces. This is reminiscent of the smaller cult spaces towards the back of ancient Egyptian statues where small religious icons, like the ones displayed in this portion, were held. The size of the room coupled with the dim lighting give a similar intimate feeling that a cult space would have given in ancient Egypt.
A small hallway leads from the religious portion into the gold working section of the exhibit. The room is smaller than the first but larger than the second, and is lit with an almost mystical blue light. The walls of this portion also appear to be blue, possibly to contrast with the yellow of the gold. The pieces were all encased in glass and had individual spotlights of white light.
Between the gold work portion and the portion that showcase the findings of Tutankhamen’s tomb there was a transition that gave us a brief story of how Tutankhamen’s tomb was discovered. This section consisted of panels highlighting certain aspects of the discovery either thorough a firsthand account or original photograph. The last part of this transition was a tent that was set up to seem as if an Englishman from the dig had just been enjoying his morning tea before rushing out to feast his eyes on what new treasures the tomb of the Boy King had yielded.
The tent functions as an arch, and the openings frame a mock stone