Thursday, February 01, 2007

King Tut Lecture

Last week a friend and I brought three 11 year olds to an outreach lecture at the West Chester Public Library. The topic was the upcoming King Tut exhibit at the Franklin Institute and the on-going exhibit, Amarna, at the University of Penn Museum. The speaker was Nicholas Piccaro, a PhD candidate in Egyptology.

These outreach lectures are always free and sponsored by the PA council for arts and humanities or something like that. The lecture was in a small room and it was full, but still only about 20 people. The three kids we brought were the only attendees under 30 years of age.

Mr. Piccaro was an interesting and engaging speaker. He had a nice powerpoint that served its purpose in keeping our attention with clear visuals. He also really knew his stuff! And, again, my theory that finding small-time experts and talking with them is very fruitful educationally was proven. He gave us a review of Tut's place in history, the importance of the Egyptian gods in the life of the Pharaoh and common people. He spoke quite a bit about King Akenaten, presumed to be Tut's father, who totally changed the religious system from polytheistic to monotheistic. In addition he touched on archeology and how King Tut's tomb was discovered.

We also got a few insights into the current Tut exhibit (Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs). The exhibit has already been to Europe and the purpose of sending these objects all over the world is to raise money to build a new museum to house the collection of objects from Tut and other Pharaohs. It will be built close to the Valley of the Kings, previously the objects were in Cairo. Although the adverts for the exhibit show what appears to be the well-recognized Tut mask, it is not. It is from an very small object, a box, that has a replica of the mask in miniature on top of it. So, don't expect the mask, that's still in Cairo! Mr. Piccaro did say that there are many more objects in this exhibit than that of the 1970's. While the 70's exhibit focused solely on Tut, this exhibit seeks to put Tut in context with other Kings around that time. There are objects from these other Kings that although not as plentiful as what was found in Tut's tomb, indicate that Tut was not unusual in terms of his burial goods.

After the lecture was over I asked Mr. Piccaro about a strategy for taking kids to the exhibit. My oldest is 11 and the youngest 6 with another in the middle, what should I make sure they see, what concepts should they grasp? We had already been to the Amarna exhibit (which he recommended going to first, btw), so they got a fair dose of Tut's context there. I loved his response. One, it takes the pressure off of the event. Two, it indicates that wonder and excitement can be more worthwhile than content! He said, "Let them lead, keep an eye on them, because it will be full, but see what they are drawn to and follow their lead." He said he wasn't sure if there would be an audio tour for kids, but if so, that it probably wouldn't have many objects on it, still that could be a good idea. When pressed he did mention two very large objects that the kids should see, but then he noted, they are so big, you can't miss them. (Frankly, I can't remember what they were.) At the end, he reiterated, let them go to what they are drawn to.

If you are anywhere near the Philadelphia area, this is your last chance to see the Tut exhibit in America. And, once it is gone, you'll probably have to fly to Egypt to see it again in your lifetime. Yes, the tickets are expensive, I balked at the price too, but it is cheaper than a flight to Cairo!

We are scheduled to go to see the Tut exhibit next Tuesday. I'll be taking the advice of the soon to be PhD in Egyptology - let them lead, let them go to what they are drawn to. I also will post a review of the exhibit and our experience with it.

This just in from Julius - Radio Times on WHYY right now is airing an interview with the national curator of the exhibition. Here's the link to their archives, look for Radio Times, February 1st, 2007.

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  • At 10:34 AM, Anonymous Angela, MotherCrone said…

    How lucky to have taken part in that program! The U of P museum is such a little gem!

    We are all excited to be going to the exhibit as well. My son chose it as his birthday field trip, which I expected from an aspiring history professor.

  • At 11:00 AM, Blogger Kathy said…

    Oh, that is perfect, a birthday field trip! I'll be waiting to read about it.


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