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Professor Wilfried Seipel was Director General of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna from 1990 till 2008. As an Archaeologist and Egyptologist, he has been responsible for numerous exhibitions on the art and culture of Ancient Egypt, such as “Gold of the Pharaohs” (2003) and “Tutankhamun and the World of the Pharaohs” (2008) in Vienna. He mentors the exhibition “Tutankhamun – His Tomb and His Treasures” with his scholarly advice.

The Fascination and Adventure of a Tutankhamun Exhibition by Wilfried Seipel 2


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Few archaeological discoveries have fascinated the world, or captivated the imagination, more than the discovery of the tomb of King Tutankhamun in 1922. After years of steadfast perseverance and tireless searching, and just before his patron Lord Carnarvon was about to cut off funding for the excavation, archaeologist Howard Carter managed to unearth one of the most sensational finds in the history of archaeology: the nearly intact preserved tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh. Although Tutankhamun had reigned for just under ten years, and died at an early age, his tomb and its treasures would reshape our view of ancient Egypt, its art and its culture, in instrumental and fascinating ways. With well over 5,000 items – including sarcophagi, statues, jewellery, furniture, weapons, chariots, and vessels – the tomb contained a previously unimaginable amount of precious treasures and ritual and religious objects. These items, in quantities worthy only of a pharaoh, were intended to be used by Tutankhamun in the afterlife, during which it was believed he would become Osiris, the ruler of the underworld. News of the discovery caused a sensation around the world and dominated the newspapers and periodicals of the day. Today, the desire to see the ancient treasures with one’s own eyes remains just as strong. Shortly after the last objects were excavated from the tomb, ten years after the initial discovery, a replica of the tomb was displayed in London, complete with replicas of individual tomb goods! Pictured in hundreds of periodicals, the treasures from Tutankhamun’s tomb influenced the fashion and design of the 1930s, setting off a new wave of Egyptomania. And that same fascination has persisted throughout the years. In the days before international travel was as commonplace as it is today, only a privileged few were able to gaze upon the tomb’s treasures at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. It was only in the 1960s that major Tutankhamun exhibitions began to travel to other parts of the world, first to the United States and


Canada, then to Japan, England and France, and later, in the 1980s, to Germany, giving millions of people the chance to see some of the treasures of Tutankhamun, if only a fraction of the total collection – between 31 and 50 objects. A visit to a Tutankhamun exhibition was considered part of normal education in our society and virtually become a social event. It first became possible to mount a new series of Tutankhamun exhibitions in Germany in 2004, some 23 years after the last show here, following the partial lifting of Egypt’s ban on exporting antiquities, which has since been reinstated. Two versions of the exhibition, with close to 80 original artefacts from the Pharaoh’s tomb, were shown in Switzerland, England, Australia, Germany, Austria and the United States, before travelling to Japan in 2012 to cap off their world tour. The fragility of the artefacts, which are more than 3,000 years old, has sparked repeated discussions in Egypt about the dangers of such “international travel”, as well as vehement and persistent demands to put an end to these exhibitions. And it is certainly reasonable to take special care to protect not just the treasures of Tutankhamun but all of Egypt’s cultural heritage! This applies to Tutankhamun’s tomb, as well, which is put at particular risk by thousands of visitors and their effect on humidity levels. Yet restricting the number of visitors, as was attempted at the tomb of Nefertiti in the Valley of the Queens, is of little help, if any at all. So what can be done to maintain what is almost considered a “human right” to access the famous treasures of an ancient culture?



1 Face to face with the Boy King: Replica of Tutankhamun’s death mask 2 Egyptologist Wilfried Seipel 3 Moments of wonder: sarcophagi and shrines 4 Objects in context: The advantage of working with replica 5 Replica of a statue of Tutankhamun 6 The innermost coffin

Photography by Theo O. Krath 6

SC Exhibitions Magazine 2014 | 17

SC Exhibitions magazine 2014  

The very first edition of the annual SC Exhibitions magazine is out now. We are publishing it to tell you about our work and to connect wi...

SC Exhibitions magazine 2014  

The very first edition of the annual SC Exhibitions magazine is out now. We are publishing it to tell you about our work and to connect wi...