Ancient Scoop

HMNS Shares the Dirt on Its Upcoming Hall of Ancient Egypt Renovations

The museum's also announced a new timetable that will keep parts of the popular exhibit open during remodeling.

By Emma Schkloven April 7, 2021

The gods (or at least the suits upstairs) have heard your prayers.

After receiving a vocal response to news of the Hall of Ancient Egypt’s 6.5-month closure, leadership at the Houston Museum of Natural Science have rearranged plans to ensure visitors can still get their Pharaoh fix throughout the renovation process.

We also have answers to some your burning questions about the remodel. 

Why is it closing in the first place?

One of the most popular exhibits at HMNS, the Hall of Ancient Egypt first opened in 2013, when the museum moved its pharaonic antiquities collection from its basement to a massive 10,000 square-foot space on the third floor. And while eight years might not seem like that long, a lot’s happened at the museum since then, including a major, technology-packed update to Wiess Energy Hall in 2017.

The upcoming updates to the Egypt exhibit are really focused on upping visitors’ immersive experience through the creation of thematic environments and the incorporation of new technology into the hall, Exhibit Director Dustin Newcomb, who is leading the renovations, tells Houstonia.

Plus, with old loans leaving and new loans arriving—not to mention new discoveries being made in the field—it was time for a facelift, adds Tom Hardwick, HMNS’s consulting curator of Egyptology.

So, what’s changing?

There are both small and large elements to the hall’s renovation. In addition to improving case lighting and making labels clearer, the update will also see changes to the gallery walls, making them more closely evoke Egyptian living space and tombs, says Hardwick.

Meanwhile, the large, pillared room is getting wall paintings that will be recreated from New Kingdom-era places, while smaller rooms will depict scenes from royal and private tombs, he adds. If that’s not enough, new animations and models will offer visitors explanations on Egyptian mythology and temples.

“As a natural science museum, we aim to provide a wider cultural context for our Egyptian collections, rather than treating objects just as beautiful things to look at,” says Hardwick.

What does the updated renovation schedule look like?

As for the new the timeframe itself, the renovations will now kick off next month and be broken into phases, leaving certain sections of the popular exhibit open for patrons to enjoy while other are being redone. The main areas showcasing mummies, sarcophagi, and artifacts from the Ptolemaic Kingdom (around 305 BCE) to the Roman periods (about 640 CE), as well as education tools, including a large Rosetta stone replica, will see be viewable during partial re-openings, says Newcomb. 

Yes, there’ll still be certain stretches when the entire exhibit is off-limits while larger pieces and cases are tended to, but the new timetable means those periods won’t drag on like the desert sands.

Here’s the new renovation schedule for HMNS’s Hall of Ancient Egypt:

Full gallery closure: May 3–June 7

Partial reopening: June 7–July 15

Full gallery closure: July 15–Aug 1

Partial reopening: Aug 1–Oct 1

Full gallery closure: Oct 1–Nov 18

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