The rise of immersive exhibitions are making their way through the US, offering us a new way of learning and exploring the arts competing with art fairs, galleries and museums for your eyes and money. More recently, I dragged my kid sister to see the King Tut immersive exhibition in NYC before it closed, now headed to its next major city. There are pros and cons to what this new entertainment media offers and its potential. This latest craze in interactive art and virtual reality stimulation so far is gaining traction. Here’s how?


 What is an Immersive Experience?

This is my fourth immersive experience, and they are not all equal. But first, what exactly is it? My best description is that of engaging in a sensory stimulation that is high-tech, educational, with some escapism. It combines the best of a prolific artist’s works, such as Vincent Van Gogh or a historical figure as King Tut with an explosion of projected lights and colorful images from the ceiling to the floor, along with music from a surround sound system similar to an IMAX theater. Many also offer for an additional fee a 10–15 minutes VR (Virtual Reality) experience. Tickets are not cheap, ranging from $40–$80 depending on different VIP offers. Most are unnecessary, just stick to the basic which is already a bit pricey.

What About the King Tut Exhibition?

 The discovery of King Tut’s life and treasures has always intrigued me. After all, King Tut was probably the most prominent hoarder of all times. Yup, over 5,000  pieces packed in a 1200 square foot room of just about everything you can think of buried with him. I still remember when the first exhibition of a small portion of his treasures (55 pieces) was brought to New York City’s Metropolitan Museum in 1977. I became a museum member that year to be able to access tickets. This exhibition was featured as the first blockbuster in the museum world, therefore tickets were a bit competitive. If not for this discovery, the world today would have not known about this lost civilization. An overlooked tomb that contained three layers of coffins, with the last one made of pure gold where a 19-year-old boy king became part of a long tradition of royal rituals for the afterlife…. an amazing story.

The King Tut Immersive Exhibition is sponsored in part by the National Geographic Society, who featured in its November magazine King Tut’s 100-year Anniversary Discovery of the Tomb. This anniversary coincides with the eventual opening of Egypt’s Grand Egyptian Museum, known as the GEM where most all of King Tut’s treasures will be housed (20 years in the making costing over 1 billion dollars). If you are planning to go to Egypt, you may want to put this on your itinerary. It’s on my bucket list!

Getting back to the exhibition, at first I was concerned it was getting a bit too much. As we walked through the dark narrow mazes listening to  the history of the excavation consisting of exhibits that light up and change, I was wondering where this was going. At the time, what I didn’t realize was how the exhibition tries to educate you first about the relationship between many of the pieces, family ties, their gods, the many elaborate rituals and their relationship to the afterlife before entering the main room. Once you enter the main room, in the center, there is an enormous boat sculpture where folks can choose to sit, imagining they are traveling with the king boy to reach his newfound home. The storytelling, the high ceiling imagery and light show narrates King Tut’s journey thorough the afterlife, where he, along with the help of the gods, must fight creatures to get to this new destination. An imaginary sea adventure to arrive at a destination much like Egypt (but better) with all of his belongings to start a new life. The narration is pretty dramatic and thunderous, a bit poetic in how this young boy’s quest for immortality takes place. I loved it! Although I can see where folks may have wanted a bit more for their $40 bucks.

The Future of Immersive Experiences

There will be more of these types of exhibitions and hopefully they will get more sophisticated, immersive and interactive. This is just the beginning of a new media combining photography, graphics, music and lighting with technology to create a new sensory learning experience. I am hopeful that museums will learn to compete with this new venue. I can see the possibilities where museums can integrate this venue with original artifacts and paintings that are not happening now.

Final Note — The photos represent a small visual of what this venue is about. The exhibition is continuously changing along with the narration and the lighting, which does not translate well on photos. Let that not keep you from experiencing it when available near you. Remember to click the center of the photo for a full view.

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