So we succumbed, and despite having seen it in San Francisco already, we hit the Tutankhamun exhibit at the Melbourne Museum. And I’m glad we did, because my sieve-like memory had forgotten much of the awesome and remembered only the vague disappointment about there not being that much Tut there (in particular, sarcophagai or the famous death mask), and the information being fairly thin when it came to the details of this slice of Ancient Egyptian history.
The bas relief of Akhenaten and Nefertiti worshipping the Aten is damn cool, as is the bust of the infamous monotheist, but it’s the quirky bits I’d somehow let slip that excited me once again: a wee ‘animated’ ankh holding Tut’s staff while he’s out hunting ostrich, and the amazingly different animal art (Bes, apparently, but rendered in ways I just haven’t seen before) on the chair of Sitamun, so fresh you could sit in it today (sadly, I can’t find a decent pic of the animorphs in question). There’s also a delicious statue of Sekhmet, though her eyes have had a rough time of it.
As usual, the colour and the detail of Egyptian art leaves me astounded. To think of the people who lavished so much effort on these works, to have them in such good order thousands of years later…
The Tut ticket gave us entry into the other areas of the museum, which we explored after a tasty lunch at the Middle Eastern-themed Tcheft Restaurant. The museum, and we didn’t have time to see all of it, is astoundingly good. The dinosaur and animal area is chock full of fun and informative interactive displays and is attractively presented, although the stuffed animals filling floor-to-ceiling ledges in one room did make me feel a little like an extra on a weird adaptation of The Birds. My only hope is that young’uns will see the poor glass-eyed critters and resolve to not let them go the way of the thylacine, of which there is a preserved specimen.
A walk-through forest section includes live animals — turtles, lizards, bower birds, tawny frogmouths and finches — and elsewhere there are more live fish and spiders and lots of stick insects.
And yes, race horse Phar Lap is on show, and it’s an awesome taxidermy job.
Also of note is the display outside the Tut exhibit of a replica of his mummy and the efforts made to finally solve the puzzle of his death at age 19 — nope — and, nearby, on a totally unrelated topic, CSIRAC, Australia’s first computer: about as big as your lounge room.
Tips: Tut is open only till December 4. The early bird parking is a good deal: $14 if you’re in before 9.30am and out after 2.30pm. Filling the time at the museum is not a problem, and the Garden View Cafe has great coffee if you want to while away the half hour till the museum opens at 10am. Or the Carlton Gardens are right there for a slow wander — I still am surprised to see massive Moreton Bay figs this far south. Don’t ask me why.