Earlier this month, the Carlos Museum unveiled its renovated and expanded
New Egyptian Galleries with the exhibition Ancient Egypt, Nubia
and the Near East, a lasting legacy for the people of Atlanta and
Egyptian art enthusiasts everywhere.
In 1999, the Carlos acquired the most significant collection of ancient
Egyptian funerary art to be purchased by a museum in the past 50 years,
a purchase funded primarily by donations from the citizens of Atlanta.
It was the last remaining collection assembled in the 19th century, and
for over a century, its objects had remained largely hidden from the world
in a small museum in Niagara Falls, Canada.
Combined with the collection of Egyptian material that has been at the
Carlos since the 1920s. this new exhibition gives the Southeast a permanent
display of hundreds of ancient Egyptian artifacts of such remarkable depth
and quality that it catapults Atlanta into the ranks of New York, Boston
and Chicago as a major center for the study and enjoyment of Egyptian
This is a momentous occasion in the history of the Michael C. Carlos
Museum and in the cultural history of this city, said Carlos Director
Tony Hirschel. These new galleries of Egyptian art will be a treasure
that will be celebrated for generations to come. Theyll be a must-see
destination for visitors to Atlanta and will surely be a source of pride
and the focus of many repeat visits for those who live in the area.
The Egyptian collection represents a broad spectrum of objects depicting
the ancient civilization of the Nile valley. Highlights include 10 exquisitely
painted coffins (including a rare complete nesting set), four human mummies,
a host of animal mummies, canopic jars, amulets, jewelry, shawabtis, basketry,
reliefs and more.
The new, permanent exhibition illustrates not only the development of
Egyptian civilization, but provides the historical context of ancient
Africa, with galleries devoted to Nubia and the Near East, two of Egypts
neighbors. The Nubian gallery, featuring a rare sculpture of the king
Taharka (reigned 690666 B.C.), is one of only three of its kind
in the United States.
Michael Graves, the world-famous architect who designed an interior renovation
for the Carlos in 1985 and returned to construct a new building in 1993,
has returned with his team yet again to assist with the design of the
New Egyptian Galleries.
Coincidentally, the Egyptian collections are returning to the original
space Graves designed for them in 1985, which was up until now inhabited
by the museums collection of ancient American art. The grand scale
of the coffins, many of which are displayed upright in the central court,
dictated the move to the loftier space.
The Carlos Museums Parsons Conservation Lab undertook a monumental
effort in the preparation of the Egyptian collection. The 150 objects
acquired in 1999 received little conservation since the collection was
assembled in the 19th century; having been subjected to poor treatment
for over 100 years, the inherently fragile surfaces needed to be carefully
consolidated, retaining as much of the original material as possible.
A team led by Carlos Conservator Thérès OGorman consulted
with leading experts from around the world and spent two years stabilizing
and conserving the collection in preparation for its long-term display
and to ensure that the objects are preserved for future generations.
Through the American Research Center in Egypt, whose U.S. headquarters
is located at Emory, a fellowship was awarded to an Egyptian conservator,
Abdel-Rahman El-Serogy, to work with Carlos conservators on the collection
for a period of three months. El-Serogy, whose expertise is in working
with ancient wooden objects and painted materials, focused on the reconstruction
of the 25th Dynasty coffin of Neskashuti, which was shattered at some
point in its North American history.
A full-color catalog titled The Realm of Osiris has been published to
commemorate the opening of the galleries. Presenting never-before-seen
artifacts spanning more than 3,000 years, it includes essays on the history
of the collection, mummification and modern medical imaging of ancient
remains. With 86 pages and 50 color and black-and-white illustrations,
the catalog retails for $14.95 and is available in the Carlos Museum gift