A new exhibit featuring a revolutionary look into our collective past…at the Natural History Museum.
Mummies. There just one of the things that holds kids, and kids-at-heart like me, in perpetual fascination. Grisly fascination, but fascination nonetheless.
Of course, Hollywood has made great hay out of Mummies, and superstitious, supernatural undead risings from beyond the grave. Those movies never really did it for me, when the real thing was so captivating, so interesting, and in their own way tragic.
Fortunately, the real thing has come to Los Angeles’s own Natural History Museum, with Mummies: New Secrets of the Tomb which opened September 18th and running to January 18th, 2016.
The exhibit was originally developed by the Field Museum in Chicago. There Scientists who each specialized in fields relating to Peruvian Mummies and Egypt’s own Mummies polled their findings into a single exhibit, highlighting the differences as well as the striking similarities between the two.
Being your humble Food-slash-Mummies reporter, I got a first class tour, guided by the two Scientists who started this in Chicago. You start the exhibit in the Peruvian Jungle, learning the burial traditions and ways of the various tribes that lived in the area. Some of the…revelations are quite grisly, but…hey to each his own.
After you’re done with the Peruvian finds (which pre-date the Egyptians by at least a thousand years) you’ll move on to Egypt. They have set up a part of a burial chamber for you to visit, as well as laid out several notable sarcophagi.
In both sections, you will see for yourself how science has played a role in expanding our understanding of what happened thousands of years ago. In both sections, there are large sized touch screen displays that will allow you to look inside previously sealed sarcophagi, peeling back the layers and seeing with your own eyes. They’ve even put an MRI machine into to show how modern medical technology is assisting the exploration of our collective past. (Don’t be fooled. Just because these are mummies from Peru or Egypt, this is the collective past of mankind that we’re talking here.)
Finally, just before you leave the exhibit, you will be treated to one more area where modern science can assist us in our view of the past. Two mummies had their skulls scanned, and their faces recreated. Now, anyone who’s ever watched a Cop Show featuring an intrepid Medical Examiner knows we’ve been doing this forever, but now…because of our knowledge of DNA, because of our technological capacity (which is only going to grow), we can scan someone’s skull without ever opening their sarcophagus. Using our skill with DNA, we can not only recreate their face, but get the skin color right.
There are two such examples at the end of the exhibit, featuring recreations from mummies right inside the room with you. It’s really fascinating, and I hope it spurs a kid or two to dive into this science in their later life. This is the kind of sight that sparks imaginations.
Mummies: New Secrets of the Tombs runs through January 18th, 2016.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: The exhibit may be a bit hard to find. As you come into the Museum, hang a left. Take the stairs down into the very cool lower level (near the Nature Lab), and you’re there.
Also, I must caution you about pictures.
Actually, the Natural History Museum does it for me:
This exhibition features mummies from Egypt and Peru. It includes the human remains of adults and children, including some that are unwrapped or exposed.
Photography is permitted, however no flash or photography of human remains are permitted. Cases prohibiting photography are marked within the exhibition.
Basically, the key thing to remember is…respect the dead. The Exhibit is okay with you taking pictures of the outside of various sarcophagi, but if you see a Skull or Bones, then the picture is more than probably a no-no. Like I said, respect the dead. Think of some far off civilization unearthing your dead loved one and putting them on display. How would you feel if they snapped a couple of pics and put it on their version of Instagram?
PARKING: Is widely available in one of the two open air lots at Exhibition Park. One is hugged up next to the Natural History Museum itself, and another is right across from the California Science Center and the California African-American Museum.
But…for once, the Natural History Museum joints the slender ranks of place with information about Parking on their website. Thus, I will quote them directly:
Parking is available for $10 (cash or credit card) in the Museum’s Car Park on Exposition Blvd. and Bill Robertson Lane. If the Car Park is full, patrolled lots are also available directly across from the Museum on Bill Robertson Lane for $10 (cash only), as well as in lots throughout Exposition Park.
Parking rates and availability may vary during special events in Exposition Park. NHM has designated parking during USC games.
Tel: (213) 763-3466
Daily 9:30 am – 5:00 pm