Nile Exhibit Shows Egyptian Take on Culture and Religion
April 15, 2004 3:30 PM
"Beauty" and "superstition" are themes that dominate popular culture and religion. And according to a new museum exhibit in the Becker-Colonna Egyptian Gallery at SF State, these themes have persisted cross-culturally throughout history.
The exhibit, “Eyes on the Nile; Beauty and Superstition in Ancient Egypt,” is completely student-produced. From the theme to the piece selection, down to the lighting and promotion activities, what you see is the result of efforts by Museum Studies 730, the exhibition design and curation course.
“It's a really great opportunity for students to put a real life experience on their resume and to see how a gallery actually works,” said Christy DeWitt, a master’s student in museum studies who's acting as student curator for the exhibit.
The course utilizes artifacts from the Sutro Egyptian Collection, containing many pieces originally brought to San Francisco in the 1880’s by Adolph Sutro, a wealthy San Francisco landowner and former San Francisco mayor. He purchased several of the artifacts during his world travels.
After Sutro’s death, ownership of the collection changed hands many times until finally being solicited by SF State's former Dr. Becker-Colonna, for scholarship and research purposes.
The collection became the foundation for the museum studies masters program, which now houses, oversees, and almost completely owns the entire collection, according to department documents.
“It seems like an easy thing (to create an exhibit) but it is really a complex monster,” said Valdemar Duran, an undeclared major who took the class because of personal interest in ancient cultures, especially Egypt. Duran was in charge of the artwork for the exhibit.
Inside the gallery, tiny elaborations decorate and inscribe scarabs and amulets. These vanity objects rest atop a circular mirror, allowing for them to be viewed 360-degrees. In ancient Egypt between 2040 and 1786 BCE, such artifacts served both as a homage to beauty, worn in a fashion similar to beads, while also playing to Egyptian superstition, symbolizing continual death and rebirth of the soul.
And what would an Egyptian exhibit be without mummies and sarcophagui? These types of artifacts represent the ultimate in superstition and religious speculation about the afterlife.
The triple stacking sarcopahgui, in which Nes-Per-N-Nub, an Amun priest dating to 1000 BCE, was buried, is a pride of the collection and displayed in tall glass cases standing against the back wall.
“It’s interesting to see the process and how a museum exhibit is put together from beginning to end, from picking the title to selecting artifacts,” said Dawn Colgan, a physical anthropology major in charge of photography for the exhibit.
The exhibit runs from April 7 to May 7, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday in the Becker-Colonna Egyptian Gallery, Humanities 510. Admission is free.
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