Sunday, April 19, 2009

Consecutive Cultural Weekends

I want to start by thanking my parents for helping us with the coordination of this effort and for buying the tickets for us. We don't do stuff like this very often, and it was really nice to be able to do it both with and without Luke with your help. Thank you! I would also like to thank the fabulous Heather for providing me with the "advance scouting" info I needed to make sure this particular strategy would work. It worked like a charm, Heather, thanks!

We had a very nice and relaxing weekend this weekend. We needed it to recover from our two previous weekends of cultural enrichment. My parents were kind enough to purchase combo tickets for the two top historical exhibits in Atlanta in April: King Tut and the Chinese Terra Cotta Army. The High museum was offering a discounted combo ticket, and my parents have an American Express, which netted an additional percent off. They bought tickets for themselves as well, and they agreed to help DH and me enjoy the exhibits on our own. I wanted to expose Luke to these things while they were here (and children under 5 are free, so why not?), too. But I really didn't want to try and see the exhibit myself with Luke in tow, knowing he probably wouldn't be all that interested.

So I concocted a plan. We got two pairs of tickets, with times staggered 1.5-2 hours apart. DH and I took the earlier time and toured the exhibit, keeping an eye on the time as we did so. Ten minutes prior to the entrance time for the next pair of tickets, we headed back up to the front of the exhibit to wait for my parents to enter with Luke. We would then go through the exhibit again with Luke, at whatever pace he wanted to look at things (or not), and leave my parents to tour at their leisure. I had been to similar exhibits at both venues before, so I knew that it should work. When I found out Heather was going to see both exhibits before I did, I asked her to check it out for me, and she confirmed that it should work. And it did! It worked beautifully.

Saturday, April 4, was our first exhibit: King Tut. All of the advertising says it is at the Civic Center, but it is really at the now defunct Sci-Trek museum that is no longer open (or only opens very occasionally for educational groups). That is the same venue where I saw the Titanic exhibit a year or two ago, so I knew it would be a very large exhibit, and it was. Not much actual King Tut involved, though. I know they keep his mummy and main masks and sarcophagi in Egypt, which is to be expected, but I really thought there would be more things from his tomb in an exhibit titled "Tutankhamun The Golden King and The Great Pharaohs." Granted, they had more stuff from his tomb in particular than they did from any other single pharaoh, but 80-90% of the exhibit was other people, not Tut himself, which I felt was a little misleading. Cool and fine, but misleading based on the title. (I would have preferred a little more Akhenaten and/or Hatshepsut as well, but I know those are just my personal tastes.) I did like the life-size photos they had on the walls of the jumbled tomb contents as they were found, where you could see some of the artifacts in the photo and then in the case nearby. That was cool.

Don't get me wrong, the whole exhibit was very nice and I enjoyed it. They had some amazing pieces, and I thought they were well displayed with a good flow. I just thought there would be more direct Tut stuff than there was. It took us about an hour and 40 minutes to get all the way through the exhibit. To give you an idea of how large it was, it took us almost 10 minutes just to flat walk from the end all the way back to the beginning, and that was not stopping to look at anything, just walking. It was massive! There just was not a lot in the way of sarcophagi or actual mummies. The exhibit I saw several years ago at the Carlos Museum at Emory had more of that type of thing. I guess I was just expecting a little more of that, and a little less statuary, though I should have known there would not be mummies of any of the "great pharaohs" (i.e. names you actually recognize when you hear them) on tour. Still, very nice, and I think anyone who likes Egypt would enjoy it, as long as you know what to expect. The child hand-off went very smoothly. Our tickets were for 1 PM. We were back to the front by 2:50. My parents' tickets were for 3 PM. It took Luke all of 25 minutes to do the exhibit (remember my note that it takes 10 minutes just to walk it without stopping to look at anything). I think he found some of it overwhelming and maybe a little frightening. He wanted to be picked up (which is very unusual for him) and he only wanted to look at the small statues, not any of the big ones. It was weird. Only a couple of things caught his attention, and he mainly just wanted out. I was disappointed. I know he's only 4, but I thought he might be a little more interested than that. Guess I'll have to wait a few more years and hope. No photos are allowed inside the exhibit, but I did take this one with DH's cell phone (better resolution than mine) just inside the doors to the venue:

April 4-5 was the first weekend of my father's spring break. My parents graciously agreed to bookend their Ashville vacation with stops in Atlanta for us to do the two exhibits. They spent Saturday night with us, then went on to Ashville for their week. They returned Friday night, April 10, so that DH and I could make our second outing the next morning.

Saturday, April 11, was time for the Chinese Terra Cotta Army. I don't remember when I first learned about the existence of the Terra Cotta Army (years and years ago), but I have been totally fascinated by them ever since. When I found out they were coming to Atlanta, I absolutely *had* to go. Given the choice, I probably would have picked seeing them over seeing the Tut exhibit. (Thanks to my parents, I didn't have to choose!) Seriously, even knowing that the Terra Cotta Army exhibit would be smaller since it was being housed at the High Museum of Art, I would have picked them, because they are just so unusual. There were lots of pharaohs, with lots of similar types of artifacts. I'm sure fans of ancient Egypt all have their favorites and are well versed in differentiating artifacts from the various dynasties from each other. But there is nothing else in the world, or even in China, like the Terra Cotta Army, certainly not on such a scale.

This exhibit featured several full figures, plus a few that are in many pieces and/or incomplete, and several more bits and pieces from the tomb area. They also had one of the horses (one of my favorite parts of the find), and a few replica things from the tomb complex. I liked how close you could get to the figures, which were not inside cases but out in the open for you to see (from behind a rail, of course). Still, I could have reached out and touched them (not that I would have, and there was *plenty* of security to keep you from even considering it), and you could definitely see all of the painstaking details in each figure. They were absolutely breathtaking!

Rant warning: I do have to complain about the flow of the exhibit, or lack there of. The Tut exhibit flows very well. They know people are coming in with timed tickets, so there is a general path to follow if you want to see everything. There are not queue lines or anything that forces you to see this and/or that, or that makes you flow in a particular manner, but it is obvious how the flow should go with the layout and placement of the artifacts, and it works very very well (in both my personal and professional IE opinion). But the Terra Cotta Army exhibit did not flow at all. There was no logical way for people to get from one artifact to the next, and there were too many large interesting things grouped together, which caused a lot of bunching and clustering at more than one point in the exhibit. But my biggest complaint is the room with the group of figures. There are two rooms that branch off from this large viewing area, one about half-way down on the right, and the other all the way at the end on the left. But there was no indication of which was the way out! I suppose it is logical that the one at the end is the way out, but there was absolutely nothing to indicate that from inside the large room. The most logical flow of the large room is around the cluster of figures, then around the chariot replicas, then around the two figures at the end. Where do you go from there? Do you back up to the room on the right? (This causes more bottle-necking with people going against the flow, so to speak.) Or do you go on to the room on the left? Once you leave, you can't get back in, so I didn't want to accidentally leave. Just a poor design, IMO. DH pointed out that it was much more like a museum exhibit, where people just come and go at will. There is not necessarily a need for a "flow" in those types of exhibits, because people are not coming in clumps. But the Warriors *were* timed, and what's worse, patrons were brought on on elevators that hold 20-25 people each, arriving in batches instead of in a trickle. Clumps and bottlenecks were everywhere, and I think they had too many people in at any given time. I was very annoyed at how difficult it was to see everything, both due to the clumping and the sheer volume of people. It was not easy for this short little person to see some of the things. I finally learned to wait for the largest portion of each new elevator clump to pass, and I could get a better look at things. And there were plenty of benches for us to sit on and wait in the meantime, which was also nice.

Our tickets were for 10 AM, and my parents' were for 11:30. Again, they brought Luke with them, we met them as they stepped off the elevator, and we took Luke on through. Again, it took him only about 20 minutes, but that was actually a lot longer than it sounds. Tut took him 25 minutes compared to mine and DH's 100 minutes. The Terra Cotta Army took him 20 minutes compared to DH and my 55 minutes. He actually showed some interest in the palace replica, and he did think the figures were pretty neat. He was just in awe of the horse (that's my boy!). They also had a model of the assembly line used to make the figures that he thought was really really neat (I'm sensing the engineer in him! LOL). We did hit just the very first room of the Louvre exhibit on our way out. I figured we were there, why not? Luke had zero interest and was demanding to leave almost as soon as we walked in. I was very disappointed. I haven't gotten to see *any* of the special exhibits they've had over the past 3 years, and it is almost over. I'm going to try and get back there soon to see some of it myself. We'll see. Again, no photos allowed inside the exhibit (despite the woman taking them on her Blackberry and responding "yeah, I don't really care" when I reminded her of that, GGRRR!), but they had this cut-out figure out front.

It was past time for Luke to eat lunch anyway, so we headed on out. Mom and Dad had finished by then, so we met up at Zesto's. All in all, a very good two weekends. I do think Luke was happy to stay home this weekend, though. That may have been a little too much culture for him for now, LOL!

Currently feeling: cultured


  1. I'll have to see if the Terra Cotta warriors are making a stop in Phoenix. I'd love to see them!

    And please thank you parents for using their AmEx card!! :)

  2. Oh, yay! I'm so glad my intel helped and you were able to excute your plan with both exhibits! I agree things in the TC exhibits were crowded...especially the first room. And I nearly missed the side room!

    So what flavor Zesto milkshakes did you have?? =)

  3. Both these exhibits were in London last year and your experiences replicate what I heard from friends: I didn't see the King Tut but many people said they were disappointed at the coverage (that's why I decided not to go) but the Warriors were totally mindblowing (I did see these and would love to have gone a second time). Wasn't the group with the crane beautiful!

  4. How neat! I need to go to more of those when they come to Milwaukee. I've been too afraid to even try to bring Katie.


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