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Famed antiquities expert appears at Union Station's King Tut exhibit

Antiquities expert, Dr. Zahi Hawass, appears at Union Station's King Tut exhibit, "The Discovery of King Tut," for a lecture and book signing for his myriad of fans.  The exhibit continues in Kansas City before traveling to other American cities.
Antiquities expert, Dr. Zahi Hawass, appears at Union Station's King Tut exhibit, "The Discovery of King Tut," for a lecture and book signing for his myriad of fans. The exhibit continues in Kansas City before traveling to other American cities.
Courtesy of Union Station

Because of the immense interest created by The Discovery of King Tut exhibit in Kansas City’s historic Union Station, world class expert, Dr. Zahi Hawass visited June 12 to present a lecture and follow with a book signing event the following day at the entrance to the exhibit.

Dr. Zahi Hawass' lecture and book signing at Kansas City's Union Station drew a wide range of fans, including eight year old Riker Wolff.
Nancy Wolff

Dr. Hawass, the famed Egyptologist who hosted programs on the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, National Geographic, and more lectured on “Adventures in Archelogy” and his lecture sold out beforehand. But, in order to accommodate more fans, Union Station added a special meet and greet with Dr. Hawass within the The Discovery of King Tut exhibition gallery, for Thursday, June 12.

Individuals who purchased a timed ticket for The Discovery of King Tut exhibition for Thursday, June 12, for the 2:30p.m., 3:00 p.m., 3:30 p.m. or 4:00 p.m. time slots, will have a chance to meet Dr. Hawass within the exhibition between 3:00 and 4:30 p.m.. During that time Dr. Hawass will also sign copies of his book, Discovering Tutankhamun - From Howard Carter to DNA.

According to biographical information provided by a media press release, Dr. Hawass began his career as an inspector of antiquities and rose to the height of the profession in Egypt, becoming Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, as well as the first Minister of State for Antiquities.

A tireless advocate for archaeological exploration and conservation of Egypt’s extraordinary ancient monuments, he is also the author of more than 150 scholarly articles and 40 scholarly and popular books. Dr Hawass said three additional books are scheduled for release in October of 2014.

The largest exhibit in Union Station history, covering a total of 20,000 square feet, features a total of 1,000 reproductions that were scientifically and expertly hand-crafted over five years by leading Egyptian artisans. “The Discovery of King Tut” is currently one of the largest touring exhibitions in the world, having had nearly 5 million visitors throughout European cultural capitals including Berlin, Madrid, Brussels, Seoul, Paris, Munich, Prague and Geneva.

The exhibit was brought to Kansas City through a partnership between Semmel Concerts GmbH ("Semmel") and Premier Exhibitions. The Union Station exhibit is the first in the Western Hemisphere for this exhibit. Others think they saw this about a decade ago, but this is not the same exhibit. This one is much larger, grander, and more encompassing, a spokesman for Premier Exhibitions said.

Vikki Avila, one of the attendees at the book signing said that she came to meet Dr. Hawass because she so admired him and his work.

“My wedding day, the birth of my children are special days to me. This comes right after those. I will never forget that I met Dr. Hawass, a person I so deeply admire,” she said after the book signing.

She said that Dr. Hawass’s range of knowledge is like that of the sand in the desert. He knows everything and has invested his time and talents to study and secure the knowledge for himself, for Egypt, and for all of humanity to experience.

“All the study, photography, research he did is there forever. My grandkids will have this knowledge available to them because of Dr. Hawass’ work. Egypt is for the world. It’s for everyone. The work he has done will live forever,” she said.

Avila believes that all artifacts belong to their country of origin. The items buried with the sacred rulers belongs to them and that country and should never be taken away. She said she has no problem seeing replicas, because she knows the originals are priceless and remain where they should remain–in Egypt.

Dustin Roper brought his mother, Avila to Union Station to meet Dr. Hawass. He said that his girlfriend studies history in college and he came to buy her Dr. Hawass’ book and get it signed because she could not miss work.

Admirers of Dr. Hawass come in all ages and sizes. One of the younger admirers to come for a book signing was Riker Woolf, eight years old and brought by his parents Nancy and Dale. Dale, retired as a principal in a local school district while Nancy works as a clinical social worker, working with under-served adolescents.

"The exhibit, the sarcophagus, and the King Tut mummy were awesome," Riker said.

His mother said, that the Egyptian exhibit and the Nelson Atkins sparked his interest. At first the thought of seeing replicas was not overly appealing, but thinking about how the actual artifacts can never leave Egypt caused more consideration, she said.

“For historical significance, we decided to go at sometime this summer. Riker has watched the shows Dr. Hawass has done with mummies he studied. We've watched several of his shows. Nancy said.

Concerning Dr. Hawass, Riker said, “I've never met someone famous and a real archaeologist before. What he does looks hard. He's the only guy I know that's an archaeologist. All the little artifacts made me feel I was literally in Egypt.”

Riker said that he liked seeing King Tut and seeing how he was buried in four shrines and three sarcophagus. The weird part was how he died at such a young age. And how did they get each shrine and coffin inside of each other?

“As parents, it's important to illustrate the culture, to learn about it in concrete examples, which makes it more relatable and understandable. We live in such a young country, it's fascinating to witness much older cultures and artifacts from the past, and to see what humans have accomplished over thousands of years ago,” Nancy said.

Technology certainly advanced over the centuries since King Tut’s reign, but Dr. Hawass said that three of Egypt’s king’s tombs have yet to be discovered. They could unlock more information on Egypt and its history. While Tut’s tomb remains one of the greatest finds of the 20th Century, what remains unfound and unknown could be an even bigger treasure trove of information an excitement.

Dr. Hawass said he was actively searching the Valley of the Kings to discover the remaining three monarchs. He affirmed that all is not known about some ancient information and that some future discoveries could rewrite some history as it is known today.

The earth was flat until Columbus proved that false. So, too, could future findings in Egypt prove that known facts may not be definitive.

Dr. Hawass remains a strong proponent that no one owns the past. He said that artifacts that are found in a country belong to that country and should not be owned by another country such as the bust of Nefrititi, and the Rosetta Stone, to name a few.

Concerning his book, Dr. Hawass said that most of the images included are new to viewers and have never been published before.

At age 16, Dr. Hawass said his interest in archeology began and that he has never regretted his vocation. He was on a dig when he was asked to help in an area. He said he found a statue. He then began to clean the statue, and upon finding and cleaning an artifact he love of archeology began and flourished.

“If you love something, it’s not a job. It’s your passion. I found my passion at an early age, he said.

Pyramids, Sphinx, mummies and King Tut are the four subjects that draw children’s interests. Dr. Hawass said that children attend his lectures and know the answers to questions he asks them. He said children are always interested in and know a lot about the four aforementioned topics.

“The Discovery of King Tut” continues in Kansas City in the Exhibition Hall of Union Station until Sept. 7. Dr. Hawass said he had seen the exhibit in both Spain and Geneva. He said he believes that the exhibit is one of the best traveling exhibits he has see.

For tickets and information about “The Discovery of King Tut” go the Union Stations’ website: unionstation.org. For tickets to the exhibit, go to: boxoffice.unionstation.org/public/