The door will close on “Ramesses I: The Search
for the Lost Pharaoh” on Sept. 14, but the 3,000-year-old
Egyptian ruler’s effect on the Carlos Museum should be felt
long after he returns home in late October.
I think this has gotten so many people excited, and
it’s also highlighted the public’s interest in ancient
Egypt,” said Betsy Teasley Trope, assistant curator for the
permanent collection. “People have loved having a royal mummy
here, and our hope is to maintain a lot of that momentum.”
One thing is definite: A lot of people have already come out to
visit. According to Catherine Howett Smith, associate director of
the museum, the Carlos draws about 100,000 in attendance each year.
Since the exhibit opened in late April, more than 70,000 people
have walked through the Carlos’ doors.
“We brought in many visitors who hadn’t been to museums
before, just to see the mummy,” Smith said. “Our hope
is that they also saw the African collection, the Greek collection,
and that they felt comfortable coming to a museum. Maybe the mummy
drew them in, but maybe they will come back.”
The direct effect of Ramesses’ stay—increased attendance—is
easy to see. But down the road, the sensitivity toward Egyptian
history and culture shown by Emory has the potential to pay off
in many more ways.
“By repatriating the pharaoh, we were without question doing
the right thing in terms of ethical museum practices,” said
Smith, adding that some pieces from the tomb of Ramesses’
son, Seti I, already have been returned. “If you’re
an educational institution and responsible for public trust, you
have to ask yourself: Is it better to have these pieces out of context
in a glass case in Atlanta, or is it better to think globally, and
put them back in their context so scholars, visitors and students
Smith said that, in no small part because of Ramesses, the Carlos
Museum’s relationship with Egypt is “wonderful”
and that several future partnerships are in the works. For instance,
a team from the museum including Trope, Director of Educational
Programs Elizabeth Hornor and Curator of Ancient Egyptian, Nubian
and Near Eastern Art Peter Lacovara will be scouting Egyptian sites
for a future website that will offer live webcasts from archaeological
“Operating in the Middle East is not like operating here,”
Trope said. “If someone doesn’t like you—if you
rub somebody the wrong way—they will blacklist you.”
With the exhibit closing in less than a week, Ramesses, even more
than he has been, will be the museum’s focus.
On Sept. 9–12 and Sept. 14, the museum will be open from 10
a.m.–9 p.m. to accommodate last-minute visitors (because of
Bacchanal 2003, the museum will have regular hours, 10 a.m.–5
p.m., on Saturday, Sept. 13). Normally, guided tours are available
at certain times, but all have been booked for the remainder of
Ramesses’ stay. Self-guided tours, however, are just as fulfilling.
On Sept. 13, the museum’s Bacchanal 2003 will have an Egyptian
theme, “Farewell to the Pharaoh.” Hors d’oeuvres,
live music and “pharonic tonics” will be the order of
the evening as attendees will be able to tour the exhibit and the
rest of the museum after visiting hours are over. Tickets are $70
each for the public ($60 for alumni) and include a six-month museum
membership and all the benefits that go along with it.
On Sept. 14, the exhibit’s final day, Trope and William Fred
Scott, artistic director of the Atlanta Opera, will discuss “Aida:
The History and the Music.” Part lecture, part musical performance,
Trope and Scott will explore not only opera’s characters—who
are based on Nubian pharaohs—but how Egyptologist Auguste
Mariette helped create the opera’s libretto.
Even after the Ramesses exhibit closes, the Carlos does not push
Egypt aside. “Travelers in an Antique Land: Artists and Ancient
Egypt,” a current display of of Egyptian-themed watercolors,
prints and drawings, will be open until Jan. 11, 2004; and “Jewish
Life in Ancient Egypt: A Family Archive From the Nile Valley,”
opens Oct. 18 and will feature works of art and papyri dating from
525–402 B.C., a time of Jewish settlement in Egypt.
As part of the celebration of Ramesses return, Zahi Hawass, director
general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities of the Arab Republic
of Egypt, will give a lecture and book signing, Oct. 22 in Glenn
Auditorium. Later in the month, Hawass, along with a five-member
team from Emory (with several media members in tow), will escort
Ramesses home to Cairo.