I was invited to the private view of the Discovering Tutankhamun exhibition at the Ashmolean, in Oxford. My cousin is an Egyptologist and Director of the Griffith Institute and invited me.
Discovering Tutankhamun, which is at the Ashmolean in Oxford until November 2, takes you on a breath-taking journey of the treasure-filled boy king’s tomb found by Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon in 1923. When Carter died in 1939, his entire archive including more than 3000 record cards and 1800 negatives were gifted to the Griffith Institute.
Comprising mostly of enormous glass plate images as well as Carter’s meticulous and beautifully written notes and drawings, Discovering Tutunkhamun also features ‘relic’s from Tut Mania – the craze that the discovery sparked in the early 20s. There were cigarette cards, posters, King Tut music, board games, sheet music, and even a magic act starring ‘Carter the Great’.
My favourite objects though were the letters from ‘fans’ including one from a woman in New South Wales, Australia, who wrote to Carter asking if he could send her a souvenir and included a postal order for under a pound to cover the postage costs. There was also another letter from a gentleman politely suggesting that Carter seal the tomb with HARD CEMENT to deter the grave robbers while his back was turned, and another who offered to help Carter excavate the site at ‘any time, night or day’.
The exhibition was opened by the present Lord Carnarvon who owns Downton Abbey (ie: Highclere Castle) and special guests, including me, were treated to an Egyptian-themed dinner on a terrace at the museum in sweltering temperatures not too dissimilar from those you’d find in Cairo.