King Tut’s Travels: Nevine Nizar Zakaria (ITP 2012, Egypt)

Written by Nevine Nizar Zakaria, Ministry of Antiquities, Egypt (ITP 2012)

“To speak the name of the dead is to make him live again”

This is part of the story of a blockbuster exhibition for Egypt’s most famous pharaoh King Tutankhamun, which I had the pleasure of installing at the California Science Center in Los Angeles last month, and for which I was involved in all the processes of the exhibition preparation in both Cairo and Los Angeles – from packing, shipping, unpacking and mounting to displaying the artefacts inside the showcases, with more than 150 pieces from the King’s tomb, 60 of which have never left Egypt before.

King Tut Poster

The exhibition King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh is a travelling exhibition developed by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and global agency IMG Exhibition International. It is on view at the California Science Center till January 2019, and from there it travels on to nine more venues for a final world tour before heading back to Cairo to its home at the new Grand Egyptian Museum.

My work as the Exhibition Curator took place in close liaison with the conservators, handlers, packers, shippers and registrars. Before and during packing in Cairo, I checked each of the selected objects and reviewed all the objects’ condition reports to note down any specific issues such as previous restoration work or fragility. Each object was photographed to show its original condition before leaving the Egyptian Museum. The reports and photographs were verified, as well as all the environmental requirements for handling and displaying the objects being annotated by the museum staff.

The highest standards of packing were maintained by the professional German fine arts handlers Hasenkamp, who designed and built twenty crates to meet the Tut artefacts’ requirements and other access issues.

Insurance and security representatives were always on site during the packing process, in addition to staff from Exhibitions International and California Center – the borrower venue – to help with the preparation of the Tut exhibition.


After sealing all the crates with my seal and completing logistics paperwork for escorting the loan shipment, I accompanied the artefacts to the Cairo airport where all the crates were loaded safely into a charter plane for FedEx cooperation – the American multinational courier that provided the shipping services for the Tut exhibition. I was sitting in the cockpit just behind the cargo area and was able to check the crates several times during the flight to ensure the steady level of the environmental conditions for the safety of the artefacts. Then, I oversaw the safe unloading and transport of the crates to the California Science Center.

After arriving and unpacking the objects in the storage area, I checked the condition of all the objects with the conservator and staff member from the exhibitions company to ensure that no damaged had occurred during the shipping. Daily meetings with the mount-makers and the exhibition designer were conducted to support the objects’ safety and display requirements.

After deciding the sequence of installation, the objects were installed and securely locked in their display cases. The lighting and environmental conditions were checked to maintain the designated level of temperature, humidity and lighting as required in the condition reports for each object.

160 objects were put on view in a dramatic display that opened on 24 March, marking the upcoming 100th anniversary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 by the British archaeologist Howard Carter. The display is divided into four thematic sections: the first three narrate the funerary rituals that King Tut underwent, from burial preparation to the journey through the underworld; the fourth highlights the discovery of Tut’s tomb and the role of modern science in keeping the artefacts alive for future generations.

This exhibition is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the visitors to see Tut’s tomb through an immersive story that tells the journey of the Pharaoh’s quest for immortality, before it returns back to Egypt and the new Grand Egyptian Museum.

The exhibition tickets sold out just a couple of days after the opening. The audience has enjoyed the collection and engaging with the stories it represents. I am so lucky and very proud to be part of this wonderful exhibition that promotes Egypt’s prestige and appeal on an international scale.


Nevine Nizar Zakaria

Click here to listen to Nevine talk about the significance of the exhibition with Diane Perlov, Senior Vice President for Exhibits, California Science Centre

Find out more about the exhibition tour here: