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Posts Tagged ‘Mummies of the World’

This summer my museum’s special exhibit is Mummies of the World, a fairly new traveller from American Exhibitions Inc.  When I first heard that we were getting this exhibit I was stoked, I mean really excited.  Since I’ve worked at TFI we’ve hosted two blockbusters about ancient Egypt (Tut and Cleopatra) and although these were fantastic exhibits with beautifully presented artifacts, they were seriously lacking in the wrapped-up dead people.  And I mean, c’mon, isn’t that the thing we living humans are REALLY interested in?  Okay, maybe just me and all the 10-year old boys out there…  Anyway, Mummies of the World boasts 70 human and animal mummies all sharing a well-designed 10,000 square foot gallery space.

Our Public Relations department did a great event for the press during the load-in process.  They got some uber-serious security guys to escort the exhibit cases and personally load in the mummies.  I am a little embarrassed to admit that all I could think of the whole time was what a great practical joke it would be to hide someone in one of the cases (wrapped in bandages, of course) and then have them pop out right after the Philly Tourism Board spokeswoman exclaimed, “Philly’s More Fun When You Sleep Over!” with a sign reading “FOREVER.”  But I guess that’s what working in a haunted house for 3 years will do to a person…

The "short guy" was probably 6'3"...

And I thought I had a weird job.

"With Love" campaign banner, cute!

When the education team met earlier this year to plan out what programs we wanted to offer, one of the ideas we kept coming back around to was how cool it would be to let people touch mummies.  Since the exhibit curators wouldn’t look too kindly on us prying open cases for guests we decided to take a slightly different route: frogs.  So in February we ordered an army of frogs (dissection specimen, we didn’t catch them…) and set to mummifying them in a variety of ways.

Buddy and his many mummified frogs

The specimen were dried, baked, salted, pickled and frozen and all turned out surprisingly well.  During the press event we were able to meet with Dr. Heather Gill-Frerking, the lead scientist/mummiologist (a special word made up by the exhibit) on Mummies of the World.  I was a little nervous at first, worrying she might take our demonstration the wrong way and think we were making fun of her work.  Fortunately she was thrilled.  Her own PhD dissertation examined mummies and she created a similar experiment with fetal pigs in the bogs of north Germany.  An anchorwoman from a local news station was really interested and did a fun spot with Dr. Gill-Frerking and the frogs.  More pictures from the event here.

The anchorwoman loved it 😉

We’ve had the “Mummification Station”, as the demonstration is now called, on the museum floor for a few weeks now and it seems to be a really big hit with our guests.  After the press event we ordered a kitchen vacuum-sealer and encased the frogs in freezer bags.  This way guests can still get a good idea of how the various mummification techniques look and feel.  The one specimen that I have some reservations about is the frozen frog, or “Flash” as he is affectionately known around the office.  Even though he spends the day packed in an insulated cooler surrounded by ice packs he still ends up a bit mushy by closing time.  This might be one of those instances where our imaginations are better than the real thing…

Meet Flash

The exhibit itself is really interesting and I definitely recommend it.  There are mummies from all around the globe– South America, Europe, Oceania, Asia and of course Egypt.  The exhibit focuses mostly on what scientific techniques and technologies are used to learn more about mummies.  It also talks about the history of mummification though you will have to look and listen closely to get the religious and cultural lessons in some galleries.  The art historian in me was a little let down BUT the exhibit is meant for a science museum venue so I really can’t complain.  I left the exhibit with a greater understanding of how other cultures handle their dead and some new science knowledge.  Oh and the gift store has some pretty hilarious merchandize like onsies that make your baby look like a mummy and “I ❤ my Mummy” t-shirts, I must resist it’s fun wares daily 😉

 

*Because they keep things under wraps!!!  Hahaha, of corpse that’s the answer!

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