By SUSAN ASCHOFF, staff writer
©St. Petersburg Times, published February 2, 1996
We just know you're wondering.
So to every visitor to "Splendors of Ancient Egypt" who is peeking around corners looking for that uniquely Egyptian vision, for every fan of bad Boris Karloff movies, listen up. There is no mummy.
"The Egyptian government does not allow any mummies out of Egypt. They are too fragile to travel," explains Bob Brier, an Egyptologist and professor at Long Island University in New York. Brier is a renowned "mummy expert" who has been to medical school to enhance his studies on Egyptian preservation of the dead. He recently appeared in a National Geographic television special on mummification.
The only mummy ever allowed out of Egypt by the government, he says, is Ramesses the Great, sent to Paris in the 1960s for repairs.
Mummies in museums elsewhere are from public and private collections outside Egypt.
On the other hand, the Egyptian government believes it is perfectly okay to display mummies, Brier says. The Egyptian Museum in Cairo has a brand new, climate-controlled mummy room, where almost a dozen rest as guards shush visitors into silence.
"It's part of their heritage, it's part of their legacy," Brier says. "The Egyptians believe it serves a historical purpose."
"Splendors of Ancient Egypt," on the other hand, is an exhibit focusing on art. Robert Steven Bianchi, an Egyptologist from New York and the exhibition's curator, says he finds public parading of mummies offensive.
"I really have a profound and deep-rooted respect for the dead," Bianchi says. "I would not want a relative of mine to be put on display for people to look and gawk at."
For those still suffering mummy infatuation, St. Petersburg can offer a quick fix. The St. Petersburg Museum of History, near the Pier on the downtown waterfront, has had an Egyptian mummy since 1922. She rests in a Victorian-era wooden coffin, anonymous and ogled by dozens of schoolchildren on countless field trips.
And at the exhibit at the neighboring Museum of Fine Arts there is a mummy as well, hidden inside a painted sarcophagus loaned by the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach. Visitors will not see it: The mummy is too fragile to display, museum officials say.