Tut exhibit leaving Luxor


Hand-crafted clay pots, thrones gilded in gold and alabaster lanterns fit for a king -- and made in Egypt 15 years ago -- are on the move in Las Vegas.

The items, which are reproductions created for the Tomb & Museum of King Tutankhamen at the Luxor, have been mummified in bubble wrap and packing peanuts bound for their new home, the Las Vegas Natural History Museum.

The move is part of the master plan to revamp the Strip casino's motif and update its facility. The casino donated the Egyptian reproductions to the museum.

"The museum is a better home for it," Luxor President Felix Rappaport said. "We are a casino, and we had an exhibit that just happened to have educational value. We aren't curators."

The Luxor's King Tut exhibit closed Sunday, and the 12,800-square-foot space will be replaced with the Titanic exhibit currently housed at the Tropicana.

The more than 500 items carried a king-size estimated value of $3 million, which was based on what it cost to create the exhibit.

The items, which range from everyday items to shrines and sarcophagi, were re-created in the 1990s by artists near Cairo, Egypt, who used authentic tools and methods from the period.

Zahi Hawass, an Egyptologist, consulted on the process and authorized the pieces before they were put on display, Rappaport said.

Museum officials welcomed the donation and had little hesitation about showcasing Egyptian goods that are not genuine artifacts.

"People are so fascinated by this culture," said Marilyn Gillespie, museum executive director. "We are able to tell the story without robbing heritage."

Gillespie and a team of volunteers armed with moving gear spent the week blowing dust off many of the items, wrapping them in packing material and diligently taking inventory.

"It's been like an archaeology find for us; we had to crawl under (some walls) and pass things out," she said.

Some of the items are wood and simply painted gold, but Gillespie said most of the items such as jewelry, pottery and furniture are made with authentic gold, turquoise, alabaster and ivory.

The reproductions will be in storage for the rest of the year as the museum builds a 4,000-square-foot wing to house its first cultural exhibit.

In addition to getting state funds, museum officials continue to raise about $750,000 needed to complete the project.

Gillespie hopes the new King Tut exhibit will be open to the public by Jan. 1.

Merlinda Gallegos, Luxor vice president of corporate philanthropy, said casino officials never considered selling the items. Rather they made a point to seek nonprofit organizations to receive them.

Gillespie said the museum will insure the collection for its estimated value.

Contact reporter Maggie Lillis at mlillis@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279.

 

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