A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
The most direct way to mummies and hieroglyphs in NYC is by visiting museums. Filled with artifacts dating from the Predynastic (5000-3000 B.C.) through Coptic (A.D. 395-640) periods, New York's museums offer an excellent variety of art and information. The Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collections are among the finest outside of Egypt, while smaller collections offer their own perspective on Egyptian culture.
The Brooklyn Museum's Egyptian Collection
Founded in 1823, Brooklyn's collection is largely built on Charles Edwin Wilbour's antiquities, which were donated to the museum after his death. Wilbour (1833-1896) also donated books from his personal library, and Brooklyn's Charles E. Wilbour Library is one of NYC's best resources for Egyptian books and articles (Wilbour's Legacy). This past June, under the direction of Egyptologist Edward Bleiberg, the museum CAT scanned four of its 11 human mummies. The scans produced new information about each of the mummies, which date from the Third Intermediate Period (1064-656 B.C.) to the Roman Period (30 B.C.-A.D. 395). In spring 2010, the museum plans to open an exhibit presenting the mummies and their scans (Unwrapping Brooklyn's Mummies). The Brooklyn Museum also houses temporary Egyptian exhibits. "Magic in Ancient Egypt" (Spellbound in Brooklyn) runs until October 18, 2009, and the upcoming "Body Parts: Ancient Egyptian Fragments and Amulets," will run from November 19, 2009 to October 2, 2010. The Brooklyn Museum's Egyptian collection is presented in an interactive and informative way with videos and easy-to-follow displays, allowing the modern viewer to interact and understand artifacts from mummies to sphinxes.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Egyptian Collection
The Met's collection consists of more than 36,000 Egyptian pieces ranging from huge sarcophagi to tiny seal rings. The crown jewel is the temple of Dendur, a Roman period stone temple presented to the United States in 1965 by the Egyptian government as an acknowledgement of efforts to help save and preserve Nubian artifacts and temples during the building of the Aswan Dam. The temple was given to the Met in 1967, and reinstalled, piece-by-piece, in the Sackler Wing in 1978. Dendur was originally built during the reign of Emperor Augustus around 15 B.C., in Dendur, Nubia, and it is dedicated to the goddess Isis and two deified sons of a Nubian chief. With amulets, sphinxes, cult statues, and mummy cases, one could spend days wandering the Met's Egyptian collection and still find new things to see. There is also the option of simply sitting by the temple of Dendur in the glass-enclosed Sackler Wing and reflecting on the art (and the tourists). And unlike temples in Egypt, it's air-conditioned.
This museum, located in Manhattan from 2002-2008, is now without a permanent home. Dahesh's collection of 19th- and early 20th-century European academic an orientalizing art includes works featuring Napoleonic and 19th-century Egypt with past exhibitions such as Napoleon on the Nile: Soldiers, Artists and the Rediscovery of Egypt (Napoleon on Madison) and Picturing the Middle East: A Hundred Years of European Orientalism (The Artistic Vision of Jean Lecomte du Nouye). Dahesh's prints, paintings, photography, and sculpture are currently traveling around New York and the U.S. in special exhibitions, which can be followed at www.daheshmuseum.org. The gift shop is still located at 55 East 52nd Street (between Madison and Park Aves.).
Frances Godwin and Joseph Ternbach Museum, Queens College (CUNY)
Founded in 1980 by Queens College art historian Frances Godwin and art restorer Joseph Ternbach, this small collection has about 3,500 works ranging from ancient to contemporary art, and takes pride in being the most broad-based art collection in Queens. The museum has 284 Egyptian artifacts, which include jewelry, amulets, sculpture, and a sarcophagus case. One highlight is a 26th Dynasty statue of the priest Repu from the reign of Reign of Psamtik I (664-610 B.C.). Repu is holding a shrine containing a statue of the god Osiris. The figurine was discovered in 1904 in the Temple at Karnak in Luxor. This collection is a quick way to take in some Egyptian works and also pieces belonging to some of Egypt's contemporaries from Mesopotamia to Greece to Rome.
Yale Peabody Museum & The Yale University Art Gallery
Only a few hours north of the city, these Yale museums offer a shared Egyptian collection that's worth the train ride. The permanent Daily Life in Ancient Egypt exhibition at the Peabody includes a replica tomb entrance facade built by the museum. This Late Period (525-332 B.C.) style tomb structure was built to house the museum's Late Period mummy. The Yale Art Gallery rotates Egyptian objects with the Peabody for exhibitions including Egyptian statues, amulets, and reliefs. These sister museums present pieces ranging from Predynastic pottery (5000-3000 B.C.) to Roman Period statuary (30 B.C.-A.D. 395), and each offers a different intellectual perspective on Egyptian artifacts: a natural science and history museum versus an art museum.Share