Where might you go to learn all about Cleopatra — her loves, her palaces, her jewelry, and the latest work of archaeologists trying to reconstruct her life? Egypt? No — Philadelphia! The Franklin Institute has the honor of being the first stop on a world tour of a new exhibit on Cleopatra, called Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt. The exhibit runs from now until January 2nd of 2011 and features an interpretation of the Queen’s life based on excavations being conducted by archaeologists Franck Goddio and Zahi Hawass. It showcases artifacts from museums around the world as well as many new ones from underwater ruins of Cleopatra’s empire.
The exhibit is exciting not only for its historical interpretation but also for its use of a full range of audio-visual stimuli. The exhibit, which has timed entries, begins with a short video on Cleopatra, what is known about her, and what is still being discovered. Lights then rise on a sculpture of a Ptolemaic queen, and the audience is invited to enter what looks like an underwater excavation site. An audio tour, large-scale photographs and maps, and audio “hot spots” (where you can stand to hear more information about a specific image and it sounds like the voice is speaking only to you) complement the collection of artifacts. Adding to the experience are dark aquarium-style lighting and ethereal harp music playing throughout the exhibit.
But this exhibit is only part of Cleopatra’s visit to Philadelphia. The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (a must-see for lovers of history or archaeology) is offering a joint ticket so that visitors can take advantage of the Museum’s exceptional collection of Egyptian artifacts. At the National Constitution Center, visitors can learn more about Marc Antony and Julius Caesar (Cleopatra’s most powerful lovers) in the exhibit Ancient Rome and America, running through August 1st. Hotels are also joining in the Egyptian excitement: eleven Philadelphia hotels are offering VIP deals that include tickets to the Franklin Institute exhibit with an overnight stay. And finally, visitphilly.com, a great source of information for anyone planning a visit here, offers tips for even more Cleopatra-related activities.
And you thought you had to go halfway around the world to see the latest Egyptian excavations…