Eight tractor trailers full of people (and a few animals) rolled into Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 6, accompanied by the Utah Highway Patrol and security guards in dark SUVs and dark suits, sporting sun glasses and looking a whole lot like the Secret Service.
No one's life was in danger the folks inside those trucks have been dead between 300 and 6,500 years. But the exhibits for "Mummies of the World: The Exhibition," which opens Saturday, Feb. 16 at The Leonardo, are invaluable.
"With all that security, I feel safe," said Marc Corwin with a laugh, president of American Exhibitions. "It's unusual to have a police escort, but we do have a security detail because that's very precious cargo."
The 40 mummies traveled 1,300 miles from San Antonio, Texas, for this, the last exhibit on a three-year American tour that included stops in Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Charlotte, N.C., and Tampa, Fla.
"We saw the success the success of the "Body Worlds" exhibition here, and we thought that mummies and the science of mummies would be a great fit," Corwin said.
The exhibition, which began in Germany, includes 150 objects and specimens. "It's very unusual to get 21 loaning institutions from seven European countries to loan their objects for a three-year U.S. tour," Corwin said.
On Wednesday morning, unloading the mummies began immediately. Not all the mummies are Egyptian and not all were intended to be mummified there are a number of what Corwin called "accidental mummies" from around the world. The exhibits include a 17th-century German baron; an 18th-century Hungarian family; a Peruvian child mummy that dates back 6,500 year; and Egyptian animal mummies, including a cat, a falcon, an ibis, a fish and a baby crocodile.
The exhibition also includes information gleaned from non-invasive scientific tests. "That research is ongoing," said Heather Gill-Frerking, director of science and education for the exhibition. "The process didn't stop with the development of the exhibition, so every opportunity we have, we still continue to study the mummies."
Which fits nicely with The Leonardo's mission of science exploration, according to president and CEO Alexandra Hesse.
"Science is something we want to portray as a living thing," she said. "This exhibit is about the past, but science is happening today. This is something we really want to convey."
Mummies of the World
Tickets for the exhibition, which runs from Feb. 16-May 27, are $22.50 for adults 18-64; $19.50 for seniors 65+, youth 13-17, and students and military with valid ID; and $18 for children 3-12 and groups of 15 or more. Available at The Leonardo, 209 E. 500 South, Salt Lake City, and at theleonardo.org.