It’s The Egypt Geek’s first Museum Profile, and what better place to start than at my personal favorite institution…the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York! I recently had the privilege of visiting the Met, and one thing’s for certain: it really never gets old. I’ve been to the museum a few times over the last few years, and of the many collections I’ve seen in my travels, the Met’s is truly one of the most impressive. You can’t possibly do the entire museum in one day. For a first-time visitor, I’d recommend only trying to fit in two or three galleries in a couple hours. There’s truly so much to see, and it takes a while to soak it all in!
My first stop (obviously) is always Egyptian Art! With thousands upon thousands of artifacts on display (the entire collection is over 26,000 objects!), it’s easy to spend hours perusing the collection’s winding rooms and endless showcases. Arranged in a vaguely U-shaped fashion, the exhibits allow you to walk through the different periods of ancient Egyptian history…beginning with the simplistic pottery and stone palettes of the Predynastic Era and ending with the Hellenized, photorealistic mummy portraits of the Roman Period. You truly get to see Egypt grow from tribes of primitive hunter-gatherers to one of the most powerful and advanced civilizations of the ancient world. The Met boasts a formidable collection of Old, Middle, and New Kingdom artifacts, with a great array of statues, pottery, and shabtis from the Amarna period. There’s also an amazing, newly-renovated section of Ptolemaic and Roman art that’s a must-see for fans of Greco-Egyptian motifs and funerary goods.
The two major highlights of the museum are by far Galleries 115 and 131, featuring the statuary of Maatkare Hatshepsut and the Temple of Dendur, respectively. The Met has the largest and most comprehensive collection of art from the reign of the female pharaoh in the world, with pieces ranging from her early life as a princess and God's Wife of Amun to later depictions of Hatshepsut as a (fully-male) king. The gallery and the artifacts it displays are both stunning, and it's truly worth a look at. The Temple of Dendur is housed in arguably the most beautiful gallery in the museum. With a sweeping glass wall looking out on Central Park, this small yet ornate building was gifted to the Met by the Egyptian government in 1968 to save the site from the rising waters of the Nile. Piece by piece, the temple was disassembled, shipped to the United States, and carefully reconstructed inside this specially designed gallery. Built in 15 B.C.E. during the Roman Period, it is a testament to the beauty of Ptolemaic Art; and if you want a special treat, take a peek inside! You might be able to spot some anachronistic graffiti on the temple walls from early 19th Century tourists!