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King Tut comes to Putnam

King Tut comes to Putnam


The real-life reign of King Tut is long over, but it’s just beginning at Davenport's Putnam Museum & Science Center.

“The Discovery of King Tut,” which opens on Saturday, features the many treasures found in Tut’s tomb back in the 1920s — well, kind of.

The exhibit includes recreated objects and replicas of the tomb handcrafted by Egyptian artists, made out of stone, paint, wood and gold leaf. 

Mark Lach has stood inside the tomb of King Tut, located in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, but he had a few flashbacks while walking around the Putnam.

Lach, creative director of Premier Exhibitions, has overseen presentation of the touring exhibit at the Putnam and other museums. What you'll see is as close to the originals — which are displayed at a museum in Cairo — as possible, he said. 

“You really get the feeling that you were there when the discovery happened,” Lach said. “You can follow along, from the first discovered steps to the four years of digging.”

About 1,000 items are on display, including jewelry, a chariot, thrones, musical instruments, sandals and miniature boats — as well as that famous golden mask.

A film and audio tour guides museum-goers through the history of King Tutankhamun's short life — he mysteriously died when he was 18 or 19 — Egyptian culture and how archaeologist Howard Carter unearthed the tomb.

“The idea was to bury the kings in a way that they would never be found,” Lach said. “So, Tut is really only significant because his tomb was found intact with everything inside.”

“The Discovery of King Tut” is the latest blockbuster attraction to hit the Putnam, and Kim Findlay, the museum’s president and CEO, said it’s the biggest one yet.

No other exhibit has taken up this much space at the museum; it spreads across 14,800 square feet and multiple floors. Previous big-namers, including “CSI,” stretched to roughly 7,000 square feet.

“This exhibit tells a story of that finding, so you feel like Indiana Jones exploring every turn and up and down steps,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for people in our community to experience the most known, talked about, awesome archaeological discovery in the history of mankind.”

In the past few years, the Putnam has brought in blockbusters featuring Princess Diana’s dresses, dinosaurs and the Titanic. 

“The major decision is when looking at exhibits, is does it amplify the mission of the Putnam,” Findlay said. “We also think about margin. We are a not-for-profit, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring in revenue. You must do that, too.”

The exhibit, which runs through Sept. 15, ties in with the Putnam's own Egyptian collection, said Christina Kastell, curator of anthropology.

“Everyone in the archaeological field dreams of a find like King Tut,” Kastell said. “We've always had a connection to Egyptian culture here, so to bring that experience right here at the Putnam is really exciting.”


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