Gallery from "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs," showcasing objects used in the daily lives of Egyptian royalty.
Photo by Matt Prefontaine
Gallery from "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs," currently on display at the Dallas Museum of Art.
Photo by Matt Prefontaine
The gilden coffin of Tjuya is almost entirely covered with reddish gold. Dynasty 18, reign of Amenhotep III 1390-1353 BCE
Photo by McMillan Group

King Tut exhibit showcases pharaohs' opulence

By TERRY MATHEWS, News-Telegram Arts Editor

Oct. 9, 2008 - I have two pieces of advice for those of you planning to see the highly anticipated exhibit, "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs" at the Dallas Museum of Art:

  • Get there early; and
  • Take a lot of money, either paper or plastic.

Prior to opening on Oct. 3, the museum made a prophetic announcement that it expected record crowds at the exhibit during its seven-month run.

The doors open at 8 a.m. By the time we arrived at 9 a.m. Thursday, lines were already queued up, and school children were making their presence known.

"If you think it's noisy now, just wait," a security guard told me in one of the galleries. "It gets really noisy after lunch."

The guard told me the students we saw were from private schools.

"The public school buses start arriving about lunch time," she advised.

The museum has extended hours on Thursdays, staying open until 9 p.m.

"It takes about an hour and a half to get through all the galleries," the guard advised. "We were here last Thursday night until after 10:30."

Now, about the money.

Tutankhamun and his ancestors lived well. They spared no expense in the crafting of even the most rudimentary accessories. Since almost 3,000 years has past since these people ruled Egypt, inflation was bound to figure into the equation somehow; it shows up in ticket prices.

Monday through Thursday, adult tickets are $27.50. Senior citizens (65+) admittance is $24.50. Adult groups are $24.

Friday through Sunday, the same tickets will cost $32.50, $29.50 and $32.50, respectively.

The totals do not include handling fees, but you need to pre-purchase tickets because the most popular time slots sell out quickly.

Children age five and under are free, no matter the day. A lot of families were taking advantage of the price break for their toddlers. Strollers were everywhere.

Perhaps the biggest shock was what the museum is charging to park - a cool $15. There are a few public parking lots near the museum, but with the construction of the new Dallas Opera house, parking anywhere is at a premium.

Just about the time you recover from the sticker shock of your parking space and admission, the nice attendants manning the waiting line tell you it will cost an additional $7 for a hand-held, self-guided audio tour device. The device offers a few extra tidbits of information, but given the choice again, I'd pass because each object is accompanied by a complete explanation of what it is and how it was used.

The exhibit opens with a 90-second familiarization film in a darkened holding area. As your attention is focused on the two flat screen TVs above your head, the doors to the first gallery open silently, providing a very dramatic and effective peek into the opulent world of Tutankhamun, Egypt's boy king.

The people in charge of displaying the 130+ objects traveling with this exhibit should be busting their buttons. The visual effect of their work is stunning.

Some of the galleries are dark, giving visitors a feeling of actually being in a royal tomb. It's almost as if museum staff wanted you to feel like Howard Carter, the English archaeologist and Egyptologist, who uncovered the remarkably preserved tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922.

Other rooms are light and airy and arranged to encourage close examination of each object.

The exhibition actually contains more objects from other rulers than from the age of King Tut. Tut ruled a mere 10 years, from the time he was nine until his sudden death at age 19. Therefore, there was little time to adequately prepare for his funeral. Only one room is devoted to objects actually found in Tut's coffin, but the overall effect still carries a powerful punch. The craftsmanship and gilding of the objects is amazing and hard to conceive that it all took place nearly 3,000 years ago.

The museum doesn't miss any opportunity to profit from Tut and his friends. At the end of the exhibit you are dumped into a Tut-inspired gift shop and are then enticed to spend $5 to see a 3D film called "Secrets of the Mummies."?

Although it takes almost 90 minutes to stroll through the exhibit, there are plenty of benches in the galleries to rest and reflect along the way. Even though the exhibit is pricey, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the splendor of a civilization now lost to the ages.

Call 1-877-TUT-TKTS for ticket information (877-888-8587).

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