Byline: JUDY WELLS
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Massive, larger-than-life statues of long-dead pharaohs, exquisite jewelry and lavish amounts of gold, mummies and spooky-looking, animal-headed gods: This is the stuff we expect to find in blockbuster Egyptian exhibitions.
"Temples and Tombs: Treasures of Egyptian Art from the British Museum," which opens at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens on Friday, offers some of that, but more of what we usually miss -- the humanity of those Egyptians. Each of the 85 objects brings us closer to the people behind the monuments.
"Temples and Tombs" will bring benefits to the museum and the city beyond a mere show, just as the only other big Egyptian exhibit to visit Jacksonville did 20 years ago. "Ramesses II, The Pharaoh and His Times" opened the Prime Osborn Convention Center, drawing 400,000 visitors to the city's reincarnated train station and bringing acclaim, new members and name recognition to the Jacksonville Art Museum. "Temples and Tombs" will usher in a new space and new era, this time for the Cummer. The Minerva and Raymond K. Mason Gallery's 4,800 square feet of space brings the museum into the realm of institutions that can accommodate blockbuster exhibits, be they organized and mounted by the world's major depositories or by a regional one such as the Cummer.
Bringing in such an exhibit is a "bit risky" financially for a museum of the Cummer's size, so museum director Maarten van de Guchte and his staff will track attendance and store sales very carefully. If attendance reaches 60,000, they will be quite pleased.
It should. Carolyn Hill, executive director of Temple and Toms' previous stop, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, said during its final weekend there that the exhibit "mesmerized Oklahoma audiences." She said it doubled sales and attendance, which was up to 40,000 people at that point in a city two-thirds Jacksonville's size.