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'Mummies' exhibit proves a top draw at California Science Center

August 25, 2010 |  9:34 am

Mummies

When a museum is looking for a surefire blockbuster exhibition, there's one strategy that usually proves a safe bet: Bring out the dead.

Mummies -- in various forms and hailing from different corners of the world -- have lost little of their novelty through the decades, capturing the imagination of people of all ages. Of course, museums everywhere are eager to capitalize on the public's fascination with all things moribund and preserved.

A case in point is the  "Mummies of the World" exhibition that recently opened at the California Science Center and will run through the fall. The center said the show recently surpassed 100,000 admissions in 50 days, making it one of the organization's most popular shows.

Other top draws at the California Science Center in past years include the 2004 "Body Worlds" exhibition, which saw 102,525 admissions during its first 50 days. The total number for the "Titanic" exhibition, which the center hosted in 2003, was 66,412 during its first 50 days.

"Mummies of the World," which features 150 preserved objects, is a traveling exhibition that is scheduled to tour museums around the country, including the Milwaukee Public Museum, which is the next stop following L.A.

The show is co-organized by American Exhibitions, a company that produces blockbuster-type traveling shows for museums and science centers.

One of the company's past shows generated some controversy. "Our Body: The Universe Within" featured human remains that had undergone a "plastination" process that preserved them for exhibition purposes.

Some claimed that the body parts on display originated from cadavers of executed Chinese prisoners. The show was co-created with The Universe Within Touring Company, which has disputed the claims. American Exhibitions said it sold its interest in that company in December 2007.

On their website, the organizers of "Mummies of the World" said that the specimens in the show "have been held in established and well-respected European museum and university collections for a century or more and have a traceable provenance. They were acquired at a time when collection of archaeological objects and human specimens were a common practice."

-- David Ng

Photo: An exhibit at the "Mummies of the World" show at the California Science Center. Credit: Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images

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