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October 22, 2001

New Egyptian galleries now open

By Allison Germaneso Dixon


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 art.

“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. They’ll 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 Egypt’s neighbors. The Nubian gallery, featuring a rare sculpture of the king Taharka (reigned 690–666 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 museum’s 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 Museum’s 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 O’Gorman 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 shop.


Back to Emory Report October 22, 2001