exhibit: Franklin Institute: King Tut

The King Tut exhibit in Philly was, of course, glorious. Because the objects on display were so stunning, the sorts of things we’ve all seen in photographs since birth, the museum fought hard to turn itself into place of melodramatic mystery, and if not for the hoards of visitors, it would have felt exciting, all the darkness and sounds and colored lights cast around. Too bad for photography, and too bad for fake gold, because when encountered with the real mask and the real gold, it doesn’t seem nearly as great as you’d imagine–I mean, is that what gold looks like? Two things strike me: the use of blue, which always seems to me something like magic; and the pieces of wood that look like they could have been cut down yesterday. Yes, it is daunting to think of this empire lasting 3,000 years, and how, at any point of time, an Egyptian could not imagine that a future day would come in which Egypt was not a world power, The world power. And yet there’s Rome and it’s lengthy stay. And if that isn’t enough to convince us of mutability, there is our dear empire’s young age, and lack of cohesive mythology, and to see that art, to see that people once valued beauty, and were masters of it, in ways that we will never tolerate again, that these were people, whose stories we do not know, who gave us Christian mythology, who lived lives and die in history–just looking at a tiny fragrance bottle carved in the shape of a man carrying a barrel, that is enough to make me feel inexorably small, terribly put in my place. But because I was trying to get out as fast as I could because I was feeling very sick, I did not read about each piece, and I sat outside in the grass, drinking ginger ale, being the center of the universe.

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