Place yourself in an ancient world. On September 28th, 2000 my boyfriend and myself attended the Metropolitan Museum of Art located in New York City, to visit an archeological exhibit on Egyptian Art. Located in the first floor off 83rd street and Fifth Avenue, the exhibit consists of thirty-two galleries each illustrating a time period in Egyptian history. It is difficult to elucidate the colossal impact this exhibit delineates. But given the chance in this essay, I will try to depict to the reader how The Metropolitan Museum of Art has successfully designed an overall picture that reflects the aesthetic values, history, religious beliefs, and daily life of the ancient Egyptians over the entire course of their great civilization.
Within the walls of this vault-like exhibit area, you will find precious jewels, stone carvings and giant tombs. While many of the precious pieces of art lie behind glass walls, some of the most impressive stone carvings and slabs lie right in the middle of the floor, with nothing between you but the temptation to touch. I was transported to a world long gone, and I found myself feeling faint. The collection consists of approximately 36,000 objects dating from the Paleolithic to the Roman period (ca. 300,000 BC – 4th century AD) as seen in Gallery 1 in a time line against the wall. According to Mrs. Robins at the information desk, the collection derived from the Museum’s thirty-five years of archaeological work in Egypt beginning in 1906 by Mr. J. Perpont Morgan, the Museum’s president, until his death in 1913. After his death, the museum conducted fourteen seasons of excavations at Lisht (artifacts seen in Gallery 10- Middle Kingdom- Lisht). Mr. Albert M. Lithgoe, a famous American Egyptologist led the early excavation teams, and he was the first curator of the Department of Egyptian Art. As the years passed, more and more discoveries were made like in the tomb of the early Middle Kingdom Chancellor Meketre. In this site, an untouched chamber was discovered consisting of twenty-four painted wooden models of “boats, gardens, offering figures, and scenes of food production” that are more detailed than any found before or since.” Over the years, the Department of Egyptian Art has also been able to obtain private collections through inheritance and purchase, gifts and from individuals willing to provide funding. In addition, the staff of the Department of Egyptian Art continues to excavate in Egypt, to conduct research for publication, and to organize special exhibits.
Locating the beginning of the exhibit was a bit difficult. As I previously mentioned, the exhibit consists of thirty-two galleries making it an extremely large exhibit. Some of the galleries have sub-sections called studies. It wasn’t clear to us what this meant and it seemed like no one in the staff really knew what “study” was. The security guards, placed at different points throughout the museum, were not of much help. They send us to a map on the walls that were also a little confusing. Finally we where able to locate the beginning of the exhibit and thus commence the journey. The first thing you see is an illustration of a temple of the Fifth Dynasty with its description. It took me a while to discover that there were thirty-two sections and that there were in chronological order. I was a bit off. What was this temple doing in Gallery 1 Dynasty 0? As no explanation was given, I continued on towards Gallery 2- Dynasties 1-10. Here there where examples of linen, frames for couches, stone plates, statues. All located behind glass walls and with their appropriate markers explaining a little about the origin and assumption or facts about what the piece meant. Gallery 3 to 5 depicted the eleventh Dynasty. Included here was also a sub-section (4A) study. It is in this Gallery that we see the finest preserved artifacts discovered in the tomb of Chancellor Meketre. I did not know this till much later when I visited Gallery 4A where brief explanations were given for the various artifacts throughout the gallery 4. My initial reaction was: shouldn’t this be before the models presented in Gallery 4? Another interesting fact is that this small room is almost invisible and not easily perceived. It is almost hidden. If