San Francisco Awaits Opening of "Eternal Egypt" Exhibition from British Museum

By Pasquini, Elaine | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June/July 2002 | Go to article overview

San Francisco Awaits Opening of "Eternal Egypt" Exhibition from British Museum


Pasquini, Elaine, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Elaine Pasquini is a free-lance photojournalist based in Ignacio, CA.

More than 22 years have passed since "The Treasures of Tutankhamun," the most popular traveling exhibition in U.S. history, thrilled Bay Area residents during its showing at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

Bay Area residents again will be able to view treasures of ancient Egypt when "Eternal Egypt: Masterworks of Ancient Art from The British Museum" opens Aug. 10 at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco's Lincoln Park--the collection's only West Coast showing. More than 200,000 people are expected to attend the exhibition before it closes on Nov. 11.

Recently, the co-chairs of the Exhibition Committee, Egyptian Consul General to the Western United States Afaf El-Mazariky, British Consul General Roger Thomas, and Diane Wilsey, president of the Board of Trustees of the Fine Arts Museums, met with 45 committee members at the Palace of Legion of Honor to discuss the committee's goals and objectives. Among the educators, business people, and local government officials who comprise the committee are many members of the Bay Area's large Arab and Muslim community, including Omar Ahmed and Helal Omeira of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR); Abdulbaset Al-Hubaishy and Monadel Herzallah of al Bait al Arabi; Youmna Chlala and Renda Dabit of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC); Jamal Dajani, director of Arabic programming for Worldlink TV; Salwa Mikdadi Nashashibi of International Council for Women in the Arts; Moina Noor of AMILA; Ghada Saliba-Malouf of Human Rights Commission; Yasin Salma of the Small Business Commission; Jess Ghannam of Arab-American Media Center; Dina Saba and Khalil Benkirane of the Arab Film Festival; and Arab Cultural Center members Abeer Rafidi, Alice Nashashibi, Salem Mufarreh and Amany Nasser Ghanem, among others.

At the exhibition committee's first meeting, Renee Dreyfus, curator of Ancient Art and Interpretation for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the assistant curator for the Tutankhamun Exhibit in 1979, showed slides of several of the exhibit's beautiful works of art. "The items in the exhibit were chosen for their ability to show fine art, not just history," she explained. "The objects selected are the most beautiful and most telling." Dreyfus also pointed out this was the first Egyptian exhibit to "focus on art as art."

All of the items in the exhibit were chosen by Edna R. Russmann, curator of the Brooklyn Museum of Art's Department of Egyptian, Classical and Ancient Middle Eastern Art, in conjunction with W. V. Davies, Keeper of Egyptian Antiquities at The British Museum.

The exhibit's 144 items, which represent Egyptian civilization from the First Dynasty in 3100 BCE through the reign of Cleopatra in 30 BCE, display a wide variety of medium, style, and size. The items to be displayed include a 3,000 pound quartzite head of Amenhotep III, a papyrus scroll text and illustration from the Book of the Dead depicting the jackal-headed god Anubis weighing a heart against the feather of truth, and a fragmentary stela with Akhenaten from the 18th Dynasty. More than half of the items have never been displayed outside of London's British Museum.

Many exciting educational programs for the general public are planned in conjunction with the exhibit, including lectures, evening classes and a mummy film series. The exhibition was organized by the American Federation of Arts (AFA) and The British Museum. The national tour was made possible by Ford Motor Company and the Benefactors Circle of the AFA. For additional information and tickets visit the Legion's Web site, .

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