No secret: Discover Egypt's treasures downtown

It’s a long way back to the latest rotating exhibit at the Virginia Discovery Museum. Visitors may enter the museum in modern times, but as they make their way to the Back Gallery past Discovery Theater, Showalter Cabin, and Jefferson’s Corner, they are drawn deeper into the past. Traveling through the stone passage that once was the rainforest hallway, they emerge into an archaeologist’s land of dreams where “Secrets of the Nile: Exploring Ancient Egypt” invites children to experience the culture and the mystery of a fascinating time and place.
Kids have no trouble getting into the spirit of this ancient time. At the outdoor market, where spider monkeys hang around the wooden posts holding up a canvas canopy, we found a group of second graders bartering for wine, bread, and fruit. The girls, dressed in white robes with large, round purple and gold collars, were carrying their wares in baskets on their heads, taking the meal to feed the warriors.
A seven-year-old explorer wound his way through the elaborately decorated passages of Pharaoh’s tomb where he used his Rosetta Stone to decipher hieroglyphic messages along the way. In the interior chamber, other young visitors were preparing the soft-sculpture body of the king for ritual mummification. This ruler seems to have lived a good life, for when they weighed his heart, it was lighter than a feather.
Kids can construct a pyramid with wooden blocks, or help build the tomb of King Tutankhamun using a pulley and some dowel “logs” to pull the heavy stone up the hill. Some may want to ride up the Nile from the Temple of Abu Simbel to the delta city of Alexandria, along the way gaining some insight into what daily life might have been like for the people of this ancient civilization. Others may want to help the archaeologists fit together the chards of a newly excavated vessel or create their own cartouche, an image drawn within an oval representing one’s proper name.
“This is one of the best [exhibits] I’ve seen here,” says Julia Gottschalk, Peabody School’s second grade teacher who brought her class to spend the afternoon. “It’s really well done.”
Informative, imaginative, engaging for both children and their adult companions… I have to agree: “Secrets of the Nile” is another must see at the VDM.
Alas, after six years of creating these outstanding and fascinating displays, Exhibit and Outreach Coordinator Fenella Belle tells us “Secrets of the Nile” is her last.
“Secrets of the Nile: Exploring Ancient Egypt” is on display through January 5 and is included in the price of museum admission. East end of the Downtown Mall. 977-1025.