Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Secrecy key as King Tut exhibit rolls out of Dallas

Denton Record-Chronicle (Scott K. Parks)

Now, a veil of secrecy is descending upon the 130 priceless Egyptian antiquities that constituted "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs" at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Event organizers don't want anyone to know exactly how the objects get disassembled, packed and moved to their next stop in San Francisco.

A team of Egyptians from the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Cairo flew into Dallas on Sunday – the last day of the exhibit – and will begin the painstaking work this morning.

The Egyptian government, which owns the artifacts, will not allow outsiders to photograph or witness the disassembly process. Details of how they are transported also are held close to the vest.

"It's not a cavalier kind of process," said Mark Lach, senior vice president of Arts and Exhibitions International, the company that teamed up with Egypt to present the American tour of the Tut exhibit. "It's very precise and very delicate."

The disassembly and packing could last 10 days to two weeks.

"The pace moves as the safety and security of the objects dictates," Lach said.

The Egyptian team – five or six experts with "very educated hands," Lach said – begins by removing the artifacts from display cases in 11 museum galleries.

They know exactly how to handle each piece and carefully place it upon a table in an "artifact room" set up at the museum. After all, these things are more than 3,000 years old.

Wielding magnifying glasses underneath special lighting, the team will compile a "condition report" for each object – such as royal jewelry, statuary and a stone coffinette that contained Tut's internal organs. They will compare the artifacts' condition with photographs taken before the exhibit installation in Dallas.

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