Secrets of the tomb: Toledoans can explore Egyptians’ life and afterlife at TMAWritten by Kristen Criswell | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Individuals will experience ancient Egyptians’ approach to life and the afterlife as they explore the Toledo Museum of Art’s (TMA) exhibit, “The Egypt Experience: Secrets of the Tomb.”
“The reason we’re doing this exhibit is people keep asking ‘Where are the mummies?’” said Sandra Knudsen, the exhibition’s curator. “This is an art museum and for the last generation or more art museums have hesitated putting human remains on view because they are not works of art and they deserve very special care and consideration.
“However, when I was asked this question one more time by Rod Bigelow, then active director, I said we could probably put them out if we very carefully managed to put them into context; so the mummy itself is the kernel where the vast amount of ancient Egyptian funeral objects, architecture, coffins, rituals, prayers and ancestor practices all are displayed around it.”
Egyptians wanted to live forever and to guarantee eternal life they built themselves graves, tombs and pyramids where their families could continue to visit and offer gifts, Knudsen said. As long as their names lived on, they would live forever, she said.
“Here in Toledo, every time we repeat [the individuals featured in the exhibit’s] names, according to their own beliefs, we strengthen their existence,” Knudsen said. “So, they are living forever. They’re just doing it in Toledo, Ohio, not in Egypt.”
The exhibition’s artwork ranges from the time of early Egyptians, before the pyramids were built, to the early
“Ancient Egyptians had a series of interesting ways of thinking about death and immortality, which began long before the pyramids were built and you can still find strong evidence of this thousands of years later,” Knudsen said. “You can see some of the early images of the way they represent themselves, the way they talk about their bodies and their souls and follow through [the exhibit] and see how it becomes more sophisticated and more complex over time.”
The exhibit is designed to showcase how architecture and objects inside tombs were intended to make the mummy comfortable, Knudsen said. Tombs could be laid out like homes with storage rooms and some of the most elaborate tombs even had bathrooms, she said.
Egyptians would also be buried with objects that may be used in the afterlife, including jewelry, makeup instruments and toys, Knudsen said.
In The Egypt Experience: Secrets of the Tomb, patrons will wind their way through the exhibit, encountering 12 individuals, different architecture and various objects along the way.
Upon entering the exhibit visitors will encounter false doors from a mastaba tomb at Giza. Between the false doors is a slit that will peer onto serdab statues.
“Inside a tomb, there would be a place that looked like a door that was believed to be the spiritual door where the Ka of the dead person literally could communicate,” Knudsen said. “Sometimes it was a closed door, sometimes you had a statue of the deceased there and sometimes you had a window. Where the statue, in a hidden room call the serdab, could look out through the slit and commune with people and receive the aromas of the good food that had been cooked.”
Elsewhere in the exhibit is a hole in the wall that peers into a mural of the tomb chapel of Aket-hotep. Two reliefs, pieces of the wall, from the chapel will also be on display.
Toward the end of the exhibit, is an interactive display of the Hall of Judgment. Individuals will hear the 42 questions of the gods for which Egyptians would have to offer negative confessions to before entering the afterlife.
These negative confessions Egyptians would have to be able to state to enter the afterlife include: “I have not stolen”; “I have not killed”; “I have not blocked a running stream”; and “I have not eaten the cakes of the dead,” Knudsen said.
The exhibit will also feature TMA’s two mummies with information from forensic and radiological studies that tell about their ages, genders and lifestyles.
One mummy is unwrapped, but is displayed inside a 42-inch tall sarcophagus, giving individuals the option to not view the body.
Some of the objects in the exhibition are owned by the TMA, with many acquired by the museum’s founder Edward Drummond Libbey on his trips to Egypt. Other objects on display are on loan from various institutions including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Indiana University Art Museum, The Field Museum and the Oriental Museum Institute of the University of Chicago.
The 18-month exhibit opened Oct. 29 and has exceeded attendance expectations, said Teri Sharp, public relations manager for the museum. More than 500 museum members toured the exhibition during its pre-exhibit party the evening before the display opened to the public, she said.
The Egypt Experience: Secrets of the Tomb is a ticketed exhibition. The exhibit is free for museum members and children younger than 6. Prices for nonmembers are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $5 for students.
The museum encourages individuals to become members and see the exhibit as many times as they’d like.
“Like all your favorite T.V. shows, you can enjoy it on multiple levels,” Knudsen said. “We hope some will say ‘I remember this’ and someone says ‘I don’t, let’s go back and see it again.’”
Membership to TMA is $75 a family, $60 for senior couples and $55 for individuals. For more information on memberships, visit the TMA website at www.toledomuseum.org.
In addition to the exhibit, the museum will feature a number of Egyptian programs during The Egypt Experience: Secrets of the Tomb’s 18-month run.
“Our goal is to create the kind of programs that complement the exhibition and bring people in, something they would like to do,” said Judy Weinberg, program coordinator at TMA.
Programs include hands-on activities, films and lectures.
The classic film, “Abbott & Costello Meet the Mummy,” was shown Nov. 26 and more mummy-themed movies are scheduled to come.
Hands-on activities included “Secrets of the Mummy,” the chance to create a mini sarcophagus, on Nov. 26.
Families with children 10 and younger can also participate in hands-on activities during “I Want My Mummy,” at the Family Fun Center the week of Dec. 26.
Children will also be able to create a mini sarcophagus during this time. The center is open from noon to 5:30 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday.
“Hands-on activities are geared toward everybody. If you’re a child you can do it on one level, but if you’re an adult you can do it on another level. They are really fun,” Weinberg said.
All programs are free and open to the public.
Also running concurrently with the special exhibit is “Travelers Through Ancient Lands,” featuring paper artworks of Egypt. This exhibition is free and open through Feb. 6.
TMA is open Tuesdays to Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday noon to 6 p.m. The museum is closed on Christmas. Admission to TMA is free.
During December if patrons spend $25 in the museum gift store, or café, their parking is free.
For more information about upcoming events, visit www.toledomusuem.org.