20 December 2006

The Egyptian Museum

I don't remember who, but someone told us recently that we just should not even bother with the Egyptian Museum. I wish I could remember now who said that, since I have bothered with it and can now heartily disagree.

It costs about $9 to get in, which is $9 more than the entrance to the British Museum, but that was ok. The museum had the best collection of Egyptian artifacts I have ever seen. Better than London. Better than Berlin. And I was pleased to finally see some of the statuary that I've had knocking around my brain for a decade now. The trans-gender statue of Akhenaton, for one, but that’s a post for another day.

What impressed me most about the Egyptian Museum is that the experience of it is quite different from other major museums--at least the ones I have visited. When you walk in it is as if you have gone back in time. You leave the contemporary self-obsessed confidence found in most museums. The Egyptian Museum, for lack of a better word, is low-tech. Nothing is guarded by lasers that bounce from ceiling to floor. The exhibits are encased in simple glass and wood. There are no sleekly-designed information placards, just paper, type-written with the most basic descriptions. Instead of accession numbers that tell you where and when a piece was discovered, there are at times old photographs of piles of numbered things, and somewhere in that pile is the object in the case. Huge enlargements of similar excavation photos are propped up against the walls, as if no more elegant presentation were possible or necessary. There was, throughout the museum, enough dust to convince anyone that museums might still house hidden treasures. The lighting was terrible. The jewelry was positively inspirational.

What I liked best was that the museum shop sold postcards and books. Nothing else. No neck-ties printed to look like mummies. No recreations. No erasers or chocolates molded to look like ankhs.


Dad said...

Yes, and fortunately no guards to wisk you off to prison for taking extra note pads. It does sound like it is just down to the basics which is what a museum should be, without all the commercialism. Keep having fun over there.

Terra said...

I agree with Dad, Gift shops have way too much of the "extra" stuff these day. You can get stuffies in the shape of mummies but it's hard to find a really good book on a subject.