It’s not every day when those curious about history have the can’t-miss opportunity to delve into an age of antiquity with as much panache and style afforded by National Geographic’s “Beyond King Tut: The Immersive Experience,” which debuted in Los Angeles on November 4th at the spacious Magic Box.
Through February 26th, 2023, Southern California residents will join other cities throughout North America in transporting themselves 3,300 years into the past where, via ingeniously oriented video screens and panels (comprising nine multimedia galleries), they will become well-acquainted with the resplendent legend of King Tutankhamun, such as his unearthing, life, family tree, death, and reputed passage into a glorious afterlife. The timing of all this couldn’t be better, either, as the large-scale exhibit commemorates the 100-year anniversary of Tut’s excavation by British archaeologist Howard Carter — precisely to the day. It is, even up until now, one of archaeology’s grandest undertakings, and one that could not have been accomplished without Carter’s financier, Lord Carnarvon.
Certainly, the Magic Box LA is an ideal setting for the multisensory, wall-to-wall (and floor!) “Beyond King Tut” journey, a venture that is in partnership with National Geographic and is produced by Paquin Entertainment Group, which similarly used the creative medium of crisp digital projections to roll out “Beyond Van Gogh” and “Beyond Monet.” And just as those pop-ups did, “Beyond King Tut” harnesses the very best in 21st century technology, tapping into the history of the last pharaoh of Egypt’s 18th Dynasty in such a way that seamlessly appeals to the contemporary propensity for tagging and sharing awe-inspiring snapshots on social media.
The camera-friendly clarity and splendor of “Beyond King Tut” is a credit to Kathryn Keane, Vice President of Programming and the National Geographic Museum Director; Mark Lach, the Creative Producer; and Kenneth Garrett, a National Geographic photographer of 41 years who is responsible for at least half of the images arrayed inside the Magic Box. Garrett’s hyperrealistic chronicling of Tut, in tandem with the digital wonderlands provided by Normal, a Montreal-based studio, have divided the experience into appropriate stages to better understand the near-mythical figure’s odyssey. These include a video primer at the outset, the importance of Tut’s revelation in the Valley of the Kings, how he became king at only age 9, how he died of an indeterminate cause at 19, his 70-day mummification process, burial chamber, and finally a surreally panoramic presentation of the young royal’s passage, upon death, into a gilded, Egyptian underworld.
The hypnotic photographs also detail many of the astounding 5,398 artifacts found in Tut’s tomb — which took Howard Carter ten years to catalog. Guests can do more than just examine these, though; they can additionally play Senet, an ancient board game depicting a voyage into the afterlife. Those who desire even more can, by purchasing a VIP ticket, enter a virtual reality realm titled “Tutankhamun: Enter the Tomb,” a seven-minute short that is narrated by Hugh Bonneville of Downton Abbey fame. The VR film spellbindingly invites one into a 3-D quest that entails hovering over and observing, at every angle, the four rooms of Tut’s tomb: the antechamber, annex, treasury, and burial chamber — the innermost coffin of which is furnished entirely out of gold.
Acting as a terrific supplement to the self-guided tour is a downloadable guidebook on BeyondKingTut.com, which is highly recommended for prospective attendees. The educational pamphlet infuses greater meaning into the breathtaking sights by further contextualizing the era King Tut grew up in. For instance, background on the Nile River abutting Tut’s birthplace of Amarna, the Nile’s significance in Egyptian lore, the meaning of certain Egyptian words, what Tut ate growing up, his congenital handicaps, why he had 130 walking canes in his tomb (to help offset a malformed foot affecting his gait), alongside 29 ornate chairs, among a plethora of other items, underscore the majesty of a boy-king who only lived to be a teen. He was, furthermore, a blip on the radar in Egypt’s history, which saw peers like Cleopatra, Ramses the Great, and Tut’s own father Akhenaten rise to more renown; however, it was Tut’s amazingly preserved tomb, which was arguably first discovered by 12-year-old Hussein Abdel Rasoul (another fun fact mentioned by the guidebook) that rebranded Tut as a household name.
A tomb left mostly intact by graverobbers is unheard of for a pharaonic tomb spanning millennia. Yet, it is a fortunate circumstance that has opened the door into the intimate life and saga of King Tut, who lived in an Egyptian age fraught with an unmovable shroud of mystery until the groundbreaking 1922 excavation gave historians something to work with. Now, these resources — delineated in the form of stunningly cinematic photorealism — are available to the general public by way of the “Beyond King Tut” exhibit.
Before arriving to the Magic Box, visitors can conveniently select which hour of the day they’d like to attend; these spaced-out entries also ensure everyone remains safe while marveling at the kaleidoscopic dreamscape that lives up to its “immersive” hype and is equally impressive to both children and adults alike. Lastly, prior to exiting, guests are advised to browse the gift shop which features tasteful and elegant mementos.
“Beyond King Tut: The Immersive Experience” runs through Saturday, December 31st, at the Magic Box LA, which is located at 1933 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90007. The exhibit is open Wednesday through Friday from 10 am to 8 pm (last entry is 7 pm) and on weekends from 10 am to 9 pm (last entry is 8 pm).
For more information, and to purchase tickets, please visit: BeyondKingTut.com