Toledo Museum of Art explores issues surrounding the display of Egyptian mummies in special exhibition

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Early next year, the Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) will present a rare opportunity to experience the three Egyptian mummies in its collection and consider some of the complex cultural and social questions surrounding their display. The exhibition will place the mummies in historical context by including additional Egyptian objects and artifacts from the TMA collection and loans from other institutions. It will also explore the role Egyptomania has played in our understanding of ancient Egypt and what ways that has incorrectly influenced our knowledge surrounding this ancient culture.

The Mummies: From Egypt to Toledo will be on view exclusively at TMA from Feb. 3 through May 6, 2018. The exhibition is co-curated by Adam Levine, associate curator of ancient art and associate director, and Mike Deetsch, the Emma Bippus director of education and engagement, both of the Toledo Museum of Art.

In 1906 the founders of the Toledo Museum of Art, Edward Drummond Libbey and Florence Scott Libbey, purchased two Egyptian mummies: one, a Young Priest (ca. 800 BCE, Third Intermediate Period) and the other, an Old Man (ca. 100 CE, Roman Period). Due to conservation issues and considerations surrounding the display of human bodies, the mummies are only occasionally on view.

“As an institution dedicated to visual art and education, the Toledo Museum of Art is always looking to meaningfully engage our audiences with our vast and diverse collection in new and dynamic ways,” said the Edward Drummond and Florence Scott Libbey Director, President and CEO Brian Kennedy. “This special installation provides visitors with a wonderful chance to trace the history of the Toledo mummies, while addressing important issues about their role in the museum space.”

The exhibition will be organized in three thematic sections: the rise of popular Egyptomania beginning with Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in the late 18th century to present-day Toledo; ancient Egyptian religion and the afterlife; and burial practice, human remains and the humanization of an ancient civilization. In the process, the exhibition will ask numerous questions about the mummies on display, including how do viewers interpret the mummies, should human remains be held by an art museum, what factors influence our understanding of ancient Egyptian art, and how has our perception of ancient Egypt changed throughout history?

The culture of ancient Egypt has captivated people worldwide since ancient Greek times, with mass popularity peaking after two key events: Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt at the turn of the 19th century, and the opening of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922. These events injected ancient Egypt culture – and its objects and artifacts associated with gods, kings and everyday life – into the mainstream.

Numerous programs and events organized in conjunction with the exhibition will be announced closer to the opening.

Admission to the exhibition is free for Museum members and $10 for nonmembers. Discounted tickets are available for seniors, college students and military personnel ($7) and youth ages 5-17 ($5). Admission for school groups is free


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