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Tutankhamun exhibition review

Jonathan Schofield takes two ten-year-olds to test drive a major exhibition

Written by . Published on December 5th 2010.


Tutankhamun exhibition review

I took two ten year olds to King Tut and they loved it.

I loved it.

Close to the Trafford Centre, in an old Argos warehouse now called the Museum of Museums is a vast travelling show named ‘Tutankhamun, his tomb and treasures’.

Given its location away from the established city galleries with their professional and trained curatorial staff, I confess I was worried about what I might find. The name Museum of Museums is plain silly for starters - shouldn’t the Museum of Museums have other museums in it?

Did the choice of name for the venue mean the exhibition would be a shockingly poor, camp slice of history-lite guff?

Not at all.

Instead the boys and I enjoyed a cleverly delivered reconstruction of the finding of Tut back in 1922 by adventurer Howard Carter and his financial backer Lord Carnarvon.

Particularly good were a series of spectacular and dramatically lit tableaux underpinned by a very good audio that kept the ten year olds listening. The audio managed this by not talking down to the boys, but describing the scenes unfolding in front of them in an engagingly straightforward manner.

Good bits included the moment of realisation by Carter that he’d found an almost intact treasure house of a departed pharaoh; the original descriptions of the various rooms in the tomb; and how the various sarcophagi within which the teenage king had been buried had been unlocked. There was even a mention of the so-called ‘Curse of Tutankhamun’, a story which did the rounds when Carnarvon died in 1923.

A major failing for many though, might be that the artefacts on display aren't genuine.

But don’t worry, this doesn’t matter a jot, the spectacle is still spectacular.

This is a ‘show’ more than an exhibition, a show in the tradition of the dinosaur and Dr Who shows at the Museum of Science and Industry. It’s a 3D version of the old Hamlyn and Larousse reference books I had as a child, or a present-day Dorling Kindersley with its cut-aways.

Tut also harks back to a tradition in this city (and elsewhere) of fire and light spectaculars. Before cinema arrived venues such as The Free Trade Hall and Belle Vue would re-enact historic events like the Eruption of Vesuvius and the Distruction of Pompeii or the Fall of Quebec and the Death of General Wolfe. They’d have fireworks, light effects and casts of hundreds.

People lapped them up. The fact that these were tableaux didn’t bother anybody, they wanted entertainment with their history.

It’s the same here.

‘Tutankhamun, his tomb and treasures’ close to the Trafford Centre, is a fabulous bit of entertainment and information, it kept the attention of my son and his friend for well over an hour. It's heartily recommended.

By the way if you’re going you might want to time your visit on or after 5 December. On this date there’ll be Egyptian-themed ‘Family Fun Days’ providing ‘educational, fun and stimulating activities for children’ – these will be included in the ticket price. Expect treasure hunts, face painting, walking acts, workshops and so on from 10am to 5pm (last admission).

Tutankhamum, his tomb and treasures’ is at Museum of Museums, The Trafford Centre, next to Barton Square. tutankhamunmanchester.com Prices adults £14, kids £7. Family tickets for four (max two adults) £36. Under fives go free.

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Harry BarkenDecember 5th 2010.

Good review. This really interested my kids as well. Strange location but a great exhibition.

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