King Tut in Philly
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I found out several months ago that artifacts from King Tut's tomb were on display in Philadelphia which on a good day is only a 3-hour drive. I knew that once summer rolled around, visiting the Franklin Institute would become a top priority.
A little over a month after school let out, I finally made the arrangements to meet up with Lin and tour the exhibit. Our only worry was the fact that we had been unable to buy tickets on-line since we hadn't known if we were going on Saturday or Sunday until Friday evening (tickets are not available on-line within that a short of window). Luckily, the lack of tickets worked in our favor; they are timed tickets and thanks to traffic jam on I-95 in Delaware, I was over an hour late to our meeting point, and we would have missed our tour time.
We grabbed lunch at the King of Prussia mall which is also where I left my car, a good idea except for the fact that I left my camera in my trunk and therefore have no pictures of Philly. I'm just grateful that I wasn't allowed to take photos inside the King Tut exhibit. We had 45 minutes to explore the Franklin Institute until our time to view the main attraction. This museum is a hands-on science museum, the type of place I enjoy. However, with a moderate crowd it becomes difficult to experience many of the exhibits without time and patience, both of which I had in short supply (time: only 45 minutes for two floors; patience: I had just spent an hour sitting in traffic). I did enjoy the walkthrough Giant Heart; kids will get a kick out of following the path of blood cells. I do not recommend this for anyone who is claustrophobic.
We did not opt for the $7 audiotour for the exhibit, and I don't think we missed out too much. Each case had a description of the item and throughout each room (there were 9-10 exhibit rooms in total) were large signs with further description of life in that time period. The crowd was still fairly big despite the exhibit having been open since early February (it was the weekend). Overall, we were able to navigate our way through fairly easily; most people formed lines and waited their turns.
The exhibit begins with a 90 second video. The doors open to reveal a single statue before you and a rush of excitement arrives...and then everyone crowds in together, breaking the feeling of awe. However, there are many more small moments of wonder. The first half of the rooms contain items found in other tombs, those of family members from slightly before Tutankhamen. There are jars that once held cosmetics, fake food items, shabtis (figurines that would serve the royals in the afterlife), chests, sculptures of the gods, and most captivating, a golden coffin from the woman believed to be King Tut's great-grandmother.
The second half of the exhibit contained nearly 50 items from King Tut's tomb itself (although nothing major such as his death mask; those items stay in Egypt). In the largest of these rooms, I found a small game like parchesi and a model ship the most interesting. In another room a small golden coffinette received center stage. Intricately designed on both the outside and the inside, this container once held King Tut's liver. The final room held five items discovered in the wrappings around his mummy including a headpiece and a dagger. For some reason the crowd had thinned a bit more when we reached the last room, so I could view these pieces more easily. What amazed me the most about the items throughout the exhibit was how well everything had been preserved (which makes sense if you think about how the items were in closed chambers for a few millenia as opposed to being buried in dirt and/or exposed to the elements). Spaces decorated with tiny tiles still held most of those pieces. Delicate carvings held their forms. Bright paints--especially blue--shone strongly. It was a neat experience to be able to view these artifacts.
Afterwards, we headed several streets done for dinner at a place called Joan's, I think. The nacho appetizer was huge. We also enjoyed our "on the wagon" drinks.