Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

In San Jose there is an “Egyptian” museum run by the Rosicrucian Order, a fraternal organization.

I visited five years ago. The museum is full of replicas.

The museum's faq assures the visitor that “there are less than 20 [replicas] in a display of over 3,000 authentic artifacts“. It seemed like there were a lot more. The museum's biggest display is a gigantic replica tomb. It's cool. I would have loved it when I was 10. Because it's a replica it's easier to touch than the real tombs in New York's Metropolitan Museum.

The building itself is in a faux Egyptian style (picture here) surrounded by cement bulls and hippos and replica Roman statues. The museum seemed very proud of its replicas, boasting of one bust that it was one of only three copies of the original in Berlin!

(The coin display is not good. I recall only two coins plus a glass weight described as a coin.)

I often think about the Rosecrucian Egyptian Museum when I read that countries want their better antiquities back.

The Rosecrucian Museum is perhaps educational for children and the general public. There is nothing wrong with having a museum with small genuine antiquities and large replicas. Egyptian-revival sculture gardens are cool. It's possible to have museums without many antiquities.

Something puzzles me about the Cultural Property rights debate. US and European museum collections are heavy in antiquities from other places. Why don't Cairo, Athens and Rome have museum wings full of American Indian arrowheads, Shaker furniture, and classic Detroit automobiles? If such museums opened up there would they be visited?

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