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Display overwhelms spectators with artifacts from King Tut discovery

The Discovery of King Tut opened April 4 and runs through Sept. 7 inside Kansas City's historic Union Station.  For information and ticketing:  Cameras and flash are permitted throughout the exhibit.
The Discovery of King Tut opened April 4 and runs through Sept. 7 inside Kansas City's historic Union Station. For information and ticketing: Cameras and flash are permitted throughout the exhibit.
Roderick Duplissie

The newest exhibition at Kansas City’s Union Station, The Discovery of King Tut, made its North American premiere yesterday, April 4 when Premier Exhibitions, Inc ., a leading provider of museum -quality exhibitions throughout the world, debuted the biggest international attraction for its American tour.

Kansas City’s Union Station unveiled The Discovery of King Tut for its North American debut on its trek across the country after the Kansas City run. After Kansas City, the exhibit travels to San Diego, CA, George Gaustello, CEO of Union Station said. He cited previous work with Premier Exhibitions as a major reason that Union Station cemented the roll out of the American tour. He said that the Station had a large enough exhibit space to host the exhibit and that past exhibits with Premier Exhibitions yielded success.

Paris, Prague, Zurich, Madrid, and 17 other major European cities rushed in droves and stood in line for hours to experience The Discovery: King Tut–His Tomb–His Treasures, and now, Kansas City experiences the wonders of the discovery as the first North American tour began.

The Discovery of King Tut, the largest exhibit in Union Station history, features a total of 1,000 breathtaking reproductions that were scientifically and expertly hand-crafted over five years by leading Egyptian artisans, Gaustello, said. Gaustello said group sales register more than past exhibits.

“Schools are lining up, quickly before school ends for summer vacation. We even have schools reserving for next August when school begins and before the exhibit moves on,” he said on Thursday, April 3 at the media preview.

With that kind of reservations and bookings, Gaustello said he anticipates long and strong enthusiasm for the exhibit. He said that grade six in Kansas and grade seven in Missouri study Egyptology and the exhibit appeals strongly to those age groups.

“What a wonderful way to present the ‘dig’ as it was found by Carter,” Roderick Duplissie, one of the first to view the exhibit, said. “I really enjoyed the anticipation of what might be around the corner. This has to be exactly what the original explorers must have felt seeing a vault that hadn’t been touched in 3000 years.”

Duplissie commented on Howard Carter who found the untouched treasure trove in 1922. According to information from the Tut exhibit, at the beginning of the 20th century, some scientists thought that the Valley of the Kings had already been completely excavated. Only Carter believed that there was still a sensational discovery to be made, and the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb was entirely down to his unwavering belief and sheer tenacity.

“In November 1922, Carter made the sensational find that amazed the world: the final resting place of King Tutankhamun. When Carter took his first look into the burial chamber of Pharaoh Tutankhamun on 26 November 1922, he was overwhelmed by the treasures he saw. Four chambers lay in front of him, some of them filled to the roof with burial artifacts of immeasurable value. They were intended to accompany the dead Pharaoh on this journey into the afterlife. Jewelry, cult objects, amulets, chests, chairs, weapons, musical instruments and royal insignias. Produced by handcraft experts and made of the most precious materials such as ebony, alabaster, precious stones –gold, and more gold. Gold necklaces, gold bracelets, gold daggers and golden shrines. And in the midst of all this boundless splendor, the culmination: covered with wall paintings, the burial chamber itself containing the tomb of the Pharaoh and the death mask n the face of the mummy, images whose beauty and dignity surpassed anything ever seen before,” a press information stated.

As an observer to the exhibit, Duplissie said he was super impressed by the child-sized throne of Tut. He examined that it was so gilded and yet so small. Another artifact that impressed him was a display of gold sandals, gold toe and finger stalls (coverings) that Tut wore.

“The story of King Tut has fascinated the world since the remarkable discovery of his tomb,” Mark Lach vice president of design and new content for Premier Exhibitions, Inc., said, “and this exhibition presents this fascinating subject in a thrillingly unique experience, and I ’m confident visitors will leave The Discovery of King Tut exhilarated by having seen something very special.”

The exhibit differs from other such events in that it takes visitors back to the time of discovery. An audio recording allows guests to move at their own pace to numbered areas and then hear the commentary. Before the actual viewing of the spectacular finds, visitors view a short video presentation that contains some original film of the archeologists and the original excavations.

“We wanted to bring the moment of the tomb’s discovery back to life and allow our visitors to relive it vividly,” Christoph Scholz, executive producer, The Discovery of King Tut, SC Exhibitions, said. “A show without barriers or behind glass, in which not just a few objects can be shown, but the whole treasure and even the reconstructed burial chambers. An exhibition that leads you right to the heart of Tutankhamun’s tomb, presents his treasures and explains them in context. An exhibition in which people can relive what the archaeologist Howard Carter went through in November 1922.”

The Discovery of King Tut visited 20 cities in Europe since its inception in 2008 and now comes to Union Station as the largest exhibit in Union Station history, covering a total of 20,000 square feet. The exhibit features a total of 1,000 breathtaking reproductions that were scientifically and expertly hand-crafted by Egyptian artisans. Premier Exhibitions, Inc. brings the collection to Kansas City after approximately five million people viewed the European tour.

“There was a quiet reverence, in the event space, which I thought served to honor the tomb’s original intent. I’m thrilled that I got to enjoy the tour at my pace and stand directly in front of the chariot.. I got a great mental image of what it must have been like to live 3000 years ago in Egypt,” Duplissie said.

About the idea of the exhibition and speaking to the concept, Lach said he had traveled to Egypt and gone inside Tut’s now vacant tomb just to see what remains. He said there is nothing there. All has been removed and that this exhibition recreates the moment Howard Carter first broke through a wall and peeked in to see all the treasures, untouched and as they lay hidden and buried for Tut’s afterlife.

Lach further explained that Carter had nearly given up because all of the previously discovered tombs in the Valley of the Kings had been discovered and raided over the centuries, but the boy king had never been found.

“He would have been completely forgotten by history had Carter not persevered and found what turned out to be the largest discovery of the 20th Century,” he said.

Those who go can bring cameras and photograph throughout the exhibit. And, at the end, some mementos of the visit are available in a small gift store.

“If you get through the exhibit in under and hour and a half, you’ve missed something important. I loved taking pictures - truly lots to see. I liked being able to take the tour at my own pace. I could see spending extra time with several pieces, like the wall frescoes,” Duplissie said.

“It not only captivates, but educates, making it appropriate for all ages,” a Union Station spokesman said.

“Because Egyptian antiquities from King Tut's tomb can no longer travel outside Egypt, this is an experience like no other,” Gaustello said. “The selection of Union Station to host the North American premier of this breathtaking exhibition is a coup not only for us, but for Kansas City and the entire Midwest region. The Discovery of King Tut has visited the cultural capitals of Europe, including Munich, Dublin, Madrid, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Geneva and now, Kansas City. We are in prestigious and world-class company.”

The exhibition allows visitors to experience the background of this historic discovery, and to get to know the most important artifacts through stunning and scientifically produced reconstructions. These individual presentations allow the world to experience the treasures of King Tutankhamun’s tomb without compromising the fragile originals, most of which are not permitted to be toured, the release said.

“We are delighted to bring this remarkable exhibition to North America for the first time, and in choosing a host city for the premiere, Union Station and Kansas City was the perfect fit,” Lach said. “We value our longstanding relationship with Union Station and have seen great success with previous exhibitions.”

According to Lach, when he first began working to secure the traveling rights to the exhibition, another exhibit of Tut was ongoing. The difference was that the hugely popular exhibit contained only 50 artifacts and did not show the enormity of the Tut treasures nor did it re-create the excitement of the discovery.

This exhibit focuses on the moment of discovery and takes visitors back to 1922 and the initial find. That, Lach said, makes this the most monumental and thorough exhibition of Tut’s life and after-life. The exhibit also explains Egyptian changes under Tut from the ways and beliefs of his father. While Akhenaten was known to be Tut's dad, Nefertiti is believed to be Tut’s mother.

The Discovery of King Tut at Union Station in Kansas City is made by possible through the generous support of presenting sponsor, Bank of America.

“Bank of America is a leading supporter of the arts around the world and right here in Kansas City,” Jack Ovel, Kansas City president of Bank of America, said.

Tickets remain on sale at the Union Station box office or online at Tickets for the general public are $19.95. According to information provided by Union Station, admission price includes a special audio tour (one for adults and one version paced for children) which enhances the exhibition experience.

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