I had a very lucrative but exhausting Sunday last week. That day was the "Dinner and Lantern-Lit Tour" event at the Bower's Cultural Museum in Santa Ana. It was their farewell event to their "Mummies: Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt" exhibition. First of all, I was lucky to even get there since the directions I got from the Bower's website led me directly to John Wayne airport. Luckily for me the people at the local McDonald's knew where the museum was and pointed me in the right direction. I had to go twenty minutes out of my way, but I arrived at last. I knew beforehand they had overbooked the event, but when I walked in the door it was clear they had REALLY overbooked the event. I took tours into the exhibit for three and a half hours straight, and that doesn't include the three groups Kara (a fellow Egyptologist and friend of mine) or the ones the docent volunteer took out. It was a chaos reminiscent of what surrounded the Tutankhamun exhibit events I helped out with a couple of years ago. (That exhibit is now in London.) I had seen the Bower's mummies exhibit only once before about two years ago, but somehow I managed to pull off just showing up and hitting the ground running. It probably wouldn't have worked out that way for any exhibit that wasn't on my specialty of ancient Egypt, though.
The whole lantern-lit tour idea was totally corny, but it worked out alright since lanterns were distributed to a few others in the group as well. The exhibit was pitch-black, and they shut the door once the group was inside, to the delight of the audience members. Between that and my warning that I took no responsibility for anyone left alone in the dark with a mummy they were a pretty excited bunch. The woman organizing the event wanted Kara and I to wear pith helmets as well as carry a lanterns. That idea died a swift death. It was a very grueling night--neither of us got any dinner and my voice was shot by the end of the evening--but because they really needed help, I received decent compensation. So it was an evening of time well spent, all things considered.
The people at this event were, in some cases, not only crazy pyramidiots but drunk crazy pyramidiots. Then there were other people who were just really having fun. One woman was very excited and told me she couldn't believe she was meeting a real Egyptologist. (I had introduced myself as an Egyptologist and Museum Educator.) She was very nice and I'm glad she had a good time. By the end of the night I was beat, and I think the woman organizing the event was a little embarrassed that Kara and I didn't get any dinner. I had told her at the beginning of the night not to worry about it. I know how these types of museum events go, and seeing the crowd--all of whom were eagerly awaiting their special, "expert-led" tour through the exhibit--I knew there was no way dinner would be a possibility. At the time, she kind of gave me a stern look. I think I still look too young for some people to believe I might know what I'm talking about. You'd think the fact that I wasn't freaking out on her at the sight of a packed lobby and the knowledge that everything was running twenty minutes late would have given her the impression I'd been down this road before.
After all that, I still had an hour drive to get back to Los Angeles. It was certainly the most unique teaching experience I've ever had in a museum, and I'm pretty sure it's going to stay that way. After all, when is the next time I'm going to be asked to lead a tour by lantern light through a pitch black gallery?