Flesh and organs are not really my thing; give me dry bones over gooshy bits any day. So I don't usually go out of my way to see mummies. If they're on display in a museum, I'll look at them, trying to catch a glimpse of the bones poking through. But at last year's Paleopathology Association meetings, I heard a talk by Heather Gill-Frerking on the challenges involved in creating a museum exhibit on mummies and in communicating information about mummies to a wider public. When it was announced that the Mummies of the World exhibit would make its way to Discovery Place in Charlotte, just two hours from me, I figured I needed to check it out, and I brought with me a few interested parties from different disciplines: a Roman historian (my good friend Sarah Bond), a computer scientist (my husband Patrick), and an anthropologist-in-training (my 2.5-year-old daughter Cecilia). We were also accompanied by Douglas Coler, the coordinator of in-house education for Discovery Place, who helpfully answered our questions about the creation of the exhibit and the mummies themselves.
The exhibit is arranged largely chronologically, starting with the oldest prepared mummies - the Chinchorro mummies from about 5000 BC found in Chile and Peru - and ending with fairly recent natural mummies of the Orlovits family from 18th century Hungary. In between, there are mummies from Egypt and Peru, as well as a bog body. Animal mummies are presented as well - naturally preserved rats from Europe, purposefully mummified birds and fish from Egypt, and a spectacular howler monkey wearing a feather skirt and headdress from Argentina.
You can see a nicely done 3-minute preview of the exhibit below:
|The mummy tag on display. (Sarah took this pic of the|
tag in the exhibit book.)
"Mama, I want to have a conversation."
"What do you want to talk about?"
"I want to talk about mummies."
"Did you like the mummies?"
"Yes. There was a mummy with a big hole in him."
"You're right. Why did he have a hole in him?"
"He doesn't have any organs."
"That's right. What else do you know about him?"
"He was from Egypt, on the black globe."
|Discovery Place in Charlotte|
(photo by Sarah Bond)