Posted by: COSI | June 2, 2009

Saving Lost Egypt

I’m sure the public doesn’t understand the effort, challenges, and economics that go into creating our exhibitions. Lost Egypt, which we just opened on Saturday, was a labor of love, challenge, headache, and financial challenge full of twists and turns.

We were a founding member in the early 1980’s of a science museum consortium designed to build and share exhibitions among a group of major science museums around the country. The funding was the responsibility of each member—and often a major foundation or the National Science Foundation could be successfully appealed to for major underwriting of a quality exhibition.

Then the world started to change—but only after COSI had started down the path of working with an Egypt concept and museum partner in Europe. Shortly after I came on board 3 years ago we found that the National Science Foundation funding priorities were shifting and our project would not fit within their guidelines successfully.

So there we were with a multi-million dollar project concept, a commitment to our consortium partners to create a high quality exhibition to share with them, a foreign partner, and no significant funding. What a way to start my tenure, as if we didn’t have enough challenges at the time!

I remember wincing when I approved the funds to send of a team of five people, three of our team plus a WOSU videographer and an architectural photographer to Egypt for three weeks. I remember my concerns about whether we could put our brand of engagement and interactivity onto an object rich exhibit with Egyptian artifacts and mummies.

One of the exhibits in the Lost Egypt ExhibitionSo as I stood in the Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science exhibition over the weekend, watching all types of engagement with groups of families, youth and adults clustered around activities I had a huge sense of relief and pride in our team. The photo images of rare glimpses of tombs and footage of interviews with leading archaeologists were stunning and compelling—and finally calmed me about the expense of that Egypt “expedition.”

This has been one of those projects to test a CEO’s patience, challenge a creative team, and live on a narrow line between success and failure. It’s also a project to affirm to me the great quality of our creative team. Working with our partner, the Science Museum of Minnesota, they took a project with great challenges and molded it into one of the best, most engaging exhibitions I’ve seen. Thank goodness for our team. I’m so happy to have this finally complete and open—and to see the positive response it is receiving.

We have a separate background blog on the exhibition development—but you’ll need to come in yourself to fully appreciate the Lost Egypt experience!

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