British Columbia

No mummies no problem: New ancient Egypt exhibition at Royal B.C. Museum plans to delight

The exhibit, Egypt: The Time of Pharaohs opens at the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria this weekend and includes more than 300 original artifacts gathered from around the world.

'I think it's the greatest exhibition we've ever put on'

Hatshepsut was one of the few female pharaohs and was ultimately forgotten quite soon after her reign because everything of hers was destroyed by her successor. (Jason D'Souza/CBC)

Egypt: The Time of Pharaohs opens at the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria this weekend with more than 300 original artifacts from around the world on exhibition, including the 4,500-year-old Cartouche of Pharaoh Khufu.

"Egypt always brings out everyone," said Janet MacDonald, the head of learning at the Royal B.C. Museum. "And what's absolutely amazing about this exhibition is the difference between the magnificence of the monumental and the intricacy and beautiful kind of detail of the miniature."

MacDonald suggests coming in with a magnifying glass.

"I'm not sure if that's something I should be saying, but to be able to kind of look up close and be able to be attentive to the detail."

You won't get everything you expect when you come to see the exhibition however, because there will be no mummies. "The museum has chosen not to show human remains ever again" said MacDonald, but you'll see mummified animals. 

"You'll be introduced to the animals that lived along the Nile from the cobras to the beautiful meerkats and a tiny little hedgehog."

Royal B.C. Museum chief executive Jack Lohman says it's an experience.

"It's quite remarkable to be so close, there's something humbling about being so intimate with an object." 

But it's more than just artifacts.

"The exhibition is complimented with a series of interactives, films," said Lohman, "so, in a way, we've brought to life a subject area that we're all fascinated with."

Concerned with more than just curation

Lohman says getting everything here wasn't easy. 

"There's a beautiful wooden tomb for example. It's cedar wood from Lebanon. It's delicate. Some of the artifacts are immensely heavy so there's a logistic issue of bringing things, of transporting things such a distance."

The museum puts on shows all the time, Lohman says, but that doesn't mean it gets easier.

"Each time I go through sleepless nights in thinking about this little logistic of bringing all the stuff over, insurance and so on, indemnities, and hoping of course that the public will love it" said Lohman, "but I think it's the greatest exhibition we've ever put on."

The focus is on how Egyptians lived

The exhibition aims to bring Egypt to Canada.

"It's important because it shows the life at the time of the pharaohs," said Wafaa El Saddik, the former director of the Egyptian Museum of Cairo.

"Not only the historical aspects of that period but also how the ancient Egyptians lived, what the gods looked like and why they looked like that."

People from all over the world can't seem to get enough of ancient Egypt and according to El Saddik, the exhibition will provide visitors a lot of information about a long history.

Wafaa El Saddik, former director of the Egyptian Museum of Cairo, stands in front of a bust of Hatshepsut at the Royal B.C. Museum. (Jason D'Souza/CBC)

What can't people miss?

It seems as though there's a general consensus that visitors can't miss Hatshepsut.

El Saddik says Hatshepsut's reign makes a good argument for female rulers.

"She was the first woman to rule Egypt for more than 20 years and her time was a time of peace." 

The exhibition launches on Friday May 18 at the Royal B.C. Museum and runs until the end of 2018.

With files from On The Island and All Points West

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