Some time between September 15, 1977 and January 15, 1978, my family went to New Orleans to see the King Tut exhibit. As a touring show, the exhibit was a national phenomenon and over 870,594 people had viewed the exhibit in New Orleans alone. We were in a line that my 10-year-old mind could not comprehend, except that the queue was extraordinary. We waited a long time to finally enter a canopy-covered restaurant prior to entering the museum. (Here’s a fascinating article about the exhibit and some of the dynamics surrounding the museum tour. And yes, I do remember Queen Nefertiti burgers.)

What we saw in the museum defined much of my imagination growing up. I don’t even have the vocabulary to really define some of the things that we saw. Ancient Egypt, mythology, and artwork all combined to ignite a curiosity that had only vaguely existed before. For the first time in my life, I understood a tiny portion of the connection with ancient cultures. People actually sat in that chair, drank from that cup, and worshipped before that statue.

In 2007, a similar exhibit arrived in Philadelphia. My brother and I both wanted to reimagine the exhibit 30 years prior, and bring our families along for the experience. Many of the artifacts were from the New Orleans tour. Notably missing from the museum but found everywhere in the marketing was the iconic gold mask originally placed on the mummy of King Tutankhamen. Regardless, it was a great reconnection with our past experience.

My interest in Egyptian artifacts remains quite vivid. When I saw that a mummy exhibit was coming to Valencia, I was determined to visit it. The exhibit, entitled, “Mummies of Egypt: Rediscovering Six Lives,” is a different kind of exhibit. Sure, there are artifacts and exhibit explorations, but I could hear the whispers of my own past experiences and interactions with ancient Egypt stirring in my mind.

There was an unexpected twist, though: this is a new kind of exhibit using new technologies to see “under the wrappings” without disturbing the structure of the mummies themselves. Instead, using various imaging techniques allowed researchers to identify characteristics of each mummy and discover various clues about the lives of the occupants. I was fascinated by the amount of detail and the types of information the curators provided to help museum visitors understand the exhibit.

In the end, I have to say that I was both interested and satisfied by the exhibit, and I’m happy that I attended. As I have gotten older, I’ve learned to acknowledge and respect these experiences that can exist in my memory as unique but part of my own “personal history collection” in my own life.

Mummy exhibit in Valencia

Mummy exhibit in Valencia

Burial site marking stone

Burial site marking stone

Burial site marking stone

Burial site marking stone

Protector statues (shabti) buried with the mummies

Protector statues (shabti) buried with the mummies

Anubis figurine

Anubis figurine

Sculpture of the boat taking the deceased to the underworld

Sculpture of the boat taking the deceased to the underworld

Sarcophagus detail

Sarcophagus detail

Sarcophagus detail

Sarcophagus detail

Inscribed stone tablet

Inscribed stone tablet

Various statuettes found in the tombs

Various statuettes found in the tombs

Baboon deity, probably Thoth or Babi, found in the tomb

Baboon deity, probably Thoth or Babi, found in the tomb

Sarcophagus detail

Sarcophagus detail

Inscribed stone tablet

Inscribed stone tablet

Cat statuette

Cat statuette

Sarcophagus detail

Sarcophagus detail

Jars containing provisions for the underworld
Statue of the Goddess Sehkmet

Statue of the Goddess Sehkmet

Inscribed stone tablet

Inscribed stone tablet

Mummy covered in a beaded net

Mummy covered in a beaded net

Artifacts from Egyptian tombs

Artifacts from Egyptian tombs

Sarcophagus detail

Sarcophagus detail

Sarcophagus detail

Sarcophagus detail

Sarcophagus detail

Sarcophagus detail

Statuette of the god Bes, associated with birth, household, dance, music, and pleasure

Statuette of the god Bes, associated with birth, household, dance, music, and pleasure

Chest from a tomb

Chest from a tomb

Mummy detail

Mummy detail

Artifacts spanning cultures and times

Artifacts spanning cultures and times

On a more political note, these mummies are being provided by the British Museum. According to The New Arab, the British Museum has over 50,000 Egyptian artifacts, mostly from the colonial era of British occupation. It’s a complex topic, with many perspectives. Here’s an article that may provide more insight: https://www.newarab.com/analysis/should-british-museum-return-its-egyptian-collection