From media headlines to casual conversation, the recent political season has been like a boisterous guest that has overstayed his welcome. Although I have largely avoided any foray into this heated topic, I was excited when I finally came across a pareve aspect of the topic that we can actually discuss without becoming embroiled in controversy.
While millions of people were watching the inaugural events at the Capitol, White House staff members were working at a frenzied pace to move the departing first family’s belongings out and the new president’s stuff in. The changeover does not even begin until the departing president leaves the White House for the inauguration, so as not to make him feel as though he’s being rushed out. Over the next five or six hours, furniture, rugs and artwork are put into place using carefully drawn-up floor plans. The entire process is overseen by the Secret Service, which screens all incoming items and also provides an escort for the moving vans.
I was intrigued to learn that, like a museum, the White House has a staff of curators who care for the works of art that are chosen for display. However, the move itself is a process that I can relate to; whenever the staff at Amud Aish plans an off-site exhibit, we experience a smaller version of a White House move. Our curators determine the best way to prepare artifacts for moving, and couriers are given specific guidelines for the job.
Mrs. Shoshana Greenwald, Amud Aish’s collections manager, explains that the collections staff oversees the packing of items such as exhibit cases and artifacts. “We are on top of both the security and the location of each item at all times,” she said. “Every item is numbered and entered into our database, allowing us to easily track the progress of every move.” While a moving company transports the cumbersome exhibit cases, staff members act as couriers, transporting the artifacts themselves.
Museums are always challenged to maintain a balance between public exposure and transport safety. In 1922, British archeologist Howard Carter uncovered the nearly intact burial of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. While many pyramids had previously been explored, they had been found ransacked and looted, leaving little evidence of royalty. The discovery of King Tut, as he is more commonly known, was perhaps the greatest archeological find ever, stunning the world by opening a window into the uber-luxurious lives (and deaths) of the pharaohs.
For the past hundred years or so, the King Tut exhibit has traveled thousands of miles, drawing millions of viewers. From 1976 to 1979, “Treasures of Tutankhamun” traveled to six American cities, and everyone from tourists to politicians waited hours in line to catch a glimpse of the glittering bejeweled sarcophagi and other extremely rare treasures in the exhibit.
The collection survived years of trekking around the globe in fairly good shape. In 2015, though, King Tut’s luck ran out. After the exhibition was moved from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square to the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza, workers were shocked to find a number of broken pieces. The frame of King Tut’s chair was broken, along with a sarcophagus, an offering table and another marble vessel.
Workers who packed the items listed them all in good condition, so this discovery was a tremendous blow to museum officials. The news followed another setback for King Tut, whose iconic beard was accidentally broken off by workers during regular visiting hours. The workers, who had no curating knowledge, reattached the beard with epoxy, which leaked a bit. When they tried to scrape off the excess glue, they scratched the solid gold mask.