The Museum of Civilization is more than a mere gallery space. It’s Canada’s museum of social and human history. Come behind the scenes to see how we make it all happen.
Digging for clues
It took years of work — and lots of digging — to find and unearth the rare and fragile artifacts in Tombs of Eternity. Here are photos of some of the objects you will see inside the exhibition, as they were found in the sands of Egypt. Click on the headphone icon to listen to the curator’s commentary about each of these objects.
Restoration of a special artifact
In November, Museum of Civilization conservators were hard at work restoring a 2,500-year-old Egyptian coffin to its former magnificence. The coffin, which belongs to Université du Québec à Montréal, is one of the more than 200 artifacts presented in the exhibition.
The ancient coffin contains the mummy of a 65-year old woman from northern Egypt. During a student protest in 1969, the coffin was seriously damaged; the lid was split, a major portion of the back separated from the rest of the coffin and small pieces detached from the base. Nevertheless, it is one of the finest coffins from Late Period Egypt in Canada.
The exhibition features an innovative and intriguing design inspired by 4,000-year-old mastaba (Arabic for bench) tombs of Egyptian nobles. Built in the shadow of the great pyramids on the Giza plateau, the tombs had three main components: a ground level chapel, an underground burial chamber, and a long shaft connecting the two. As part of an elaborate ceremony, the body of the deceased was brought into the chapel, lowered down the shaft and interred in the chamber. Entry to the shaft from the chapel was then blocked with a “false door,” usually a stone slab. The spirit of the deceased was thought to journey freely along the shaft and through the false door, moving at will between the chapel and the burial chamber.
TOMB AND EXHIBITION
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Tombs of Eternity invites us on a similar symbolic journey from the world of the living to the realm of the dead, beginning with a mastaba chapel — recreated with authentic artifacts — and ending with a simulated burial chamber containing three human mummies and a striking collection of grave goods. The shaft is represented by a long, dimly lit passageway with side rooms exploring aspects of life and faith in Ancient Egypt. Illuminated at the end of the principal corridor, drawing us towards the burial chamber and the afterlife, stands an imposing stone sarcophagus lid shaped in a human form.
IMAX films take you inside the action. See how Ancient Egypt was brought back to life with this behind-the-scenes video.