Mummies Among Us at VMFA

Who isn’t a little fascinated by ancient Egyptian culture? They built giant pyramids without the aid of modern machines, mummified the dead in pursuit of eternal life, and maintained a civilization for 3,000 years. They produced rock star royalty, including King Tut and Cleopatra, and their hieroglyphs were one of the first, and most artistic, forms of written communication. Lucky for Richmond, for the next few months we don’t have to travel 6,800 miles to see some relics of this super society for ourselves. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has brought mummies, masks, jewelry and jars across the pond from the British Museum for Mummy: Secrets of the Tomb, a temporary exhibit complemented by a 21-minute 3D movie. With a surprising mix of history and humor, the film shows the amazing technology used to uncover the secrets of a mummy without removing one precious layer of linen from his body. Then in the great hall of artifacts, the mummy itself is displayed in an elaborately decorated coffin, surrounded by other mummies – human and animal – as well as sculptures and necessities for the afterlife. It was mere coincidence that I read The Red Pyramid, Rick Riordan’s teen novel based on Egyptian mythology, right before I saw the exhibit, but I appreciated having the background as I studied ancient artwork featuring Anubis, Horace, Osiris and other gods. I also recognized the shabtis, small servant figurines expected to do the manual labor for pharaohs in the land of the dead, and a large statue of the cat goddess, Bastet. From the palm-sized baboon amulet to the eight-foot-tall sarcophagus lid of Pakap, each spectacular discovery brings Egypt’s captivating world of burial rituals and magical practices back to life and right here to our doorstep.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Mummy: Secrets of the Tomb
Through March 11, 2012
200 N. Boulevard

Richmond, Virginia USA  23220-4007
(804) 340-1400

Carla Murray is Assistant Director of Marketing & PR for Maymont. She is a Richmond native and a Virginia Commonwealth University graduate. She lives in New Kent with her husband, two daughters, a dog, a cat and a turtle. Some of her favorite activities include letterboxing, long walks, Cirque du Soleil shows, wine tastings, reading novels, and spending time with family and friends.

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2 thoughts on “Mummies Among Us at VMFA

  1. Wow, you just happened to have read The Red Pyramid, Rick Riordan’s teen novel based on Egyptian mythology? Do you recommend it?

    Thanks for the analysis of this informative and fascinating exhibition. RVA has a particular fascination with zombies, so I know that the Egyptian focus on preparations for the afterlife offer actual post-life perspectives. The ancient Egyptians had an elaborate mythology, coupled with a protocol for transitioning to the afterlife. Both are loaded into “Mummy: Secrets of the Tomb.”

    A funny part of the experience is to see some of the “mistakes” the embalmers made on some of their mummies, including our star, Nesperunnub. I love that the 3D glasses even have Egyptian eyes. It’s fun to look at the entire audience during the film!

    ~Suzanne Hall, Chief Communications Officer, VMFA

  2. My oldest daughter (age 10) suggested The Red Pyramid…she loves all the books by Rick Riordan. The story and writing style were a little juvenile for my taste, but it really did give me some context for what I saw in the exhibit. It brought the gods to life and incorporated the Egyptians’ sacred objects so that I recognized the meaning of many of the artifacts on display. I really wanted to ask your visitors from the British Museum if they had taken advantage of the book’s themes in programming, especially since the novel begins with a scene at their museum, but they were so busy, I didn’t get a chance. Those 3D glasses…and everything else about the experience…were great!

    -Carla

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