Excavating Egypt, opening Sunday at The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky, has been the arts equivalent of a Miley Cyrus concert tour as it has traveled to nine cities in three years.
"It actually broke a lot of box office records in cities where it has been," said Peter Lacovara, a curator at Emory University who is handling exhibit arrangements for Excavating Egypt: Great Discoveries From the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology for the Petrie in London, England.
The previous success of the exhibit — which features 221 artifacts and is the most extensive display of Egyptian objects to come to Central Kentucky — points to both the need for spectacular show-stoppers for the arts community and the draw of an ancient culture that is mysterious but accessible.
For museums in general, a big show "is really important to bolstering the bottom line but also to fulfill the mission of the museum," Lacovara said.
The American Association of Museums reports that some 885 million people visit museums and zoos each year. But entrance fees account for only about 33 percent of museums' expenses, the group says, making the venues dependent on charitable donations and sponsorships.
So museums work hard to get people outside of a built-in audience of art lovers to come through the doors.
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