The Cairo Museum, home to King Tutankhamun and other glittering treasures of Egypt, has long been considered as dim and dank as a pharoah's tomb. Yesterday, an $8-million international fund-raising effort was announced to remodel the 1900 building, and, in addition, build a museum to house Cheops' funeral boat. The announcement was made at a luncheon at the Folger Library for Jihan Sadat, wife of the Egyptian president.
The Brooklyn Museum and Design group, a Greyhound-owned company, will head the project.
"The Egyptian government will supply labor, but we've been told to bring in every screw, electrical fixture and plank of wood," said Robert Levinson, president of the Brooklyn Museum.
For years, scholars and sightseers have deplored the shabbiness of the Cairo Museum's facilities for its 3,000-year-old artifacts. As Charles Froom of the Designgroup put it, "It's a mess." The museum has no air conditioning and virtually no lighting. Remodeling cost is estimated to be about $5 million and to take about two or three years.
The museum to house the boat which brought Cheops to his final destination in his great pyramid also will be large enough to hold a second, as yet unexcavated, Cheops boat. The cost of this building is expected to be about $3 million.
The Brooklyn Museum is already mapping the Valley of the Kings, where King Tut and other great pharaohs were found. The museum is studying ways that the valley's shale rock can be shored up to preserve their tombs.
Michael Botwinick, director of the Brooklyn Museum, said at the luncheon the museum's interest comes about because of its Egyptian collection -- one of the three greatest in the United States -- and its Center for Egypt Study and Research. The Brooklyn Museum is also planning to bring for a U.S. tour a collection of Nubian treasures from Sudan.
Designgroup is one of the largest exhibit-designing companies. It has worked at the Hirshhorn, the Museum of Modern Art, and others. Jerome Lawton, head of Designgroup, said that the joint venture also will help the Egyptian government work out ways to produce money from admissions to Egyptian exhibitions, such as King Tut. Proceeds from sales of King Tut souvenir items during its tour of Washington and other U.S. cities have gone to help the Egyptian museums.
The new effort is part of an Egyptian program to rehouse all its antiquities. A Sadat Cultural Center is being planned for an island in the Nile in the middle of Cairo with a complex of museums.
Yesterday's luncheon, chaired by Sen. Claiborne Pell (D.-R.I.) and attended by a number of congressional and museum leaders, was organized by Esther Coopersmith, who will head the American effort for the Egyptian museums.