Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cleo is Coming to Milwaukee!

Not so long ago, the Milwaukee Public Museum was on the brink of bankruptcy, after a prior Chief Financial Officer (or whatever his title was), used ENDOWMENT funds to shore up his loser ideas without the permission or knowledge of the Board, depleting the Endowment as well as leaving the museum several million dollars in the hole -- well, it was a huge scandal and involved all kinds of recriminations and a law suit or two. 
Those were dark days.  There were horrifying reports in the press of parts of the MPM collection possibly being sold off to pay creditors, and even reports of shutting down MPM permanently and selling off its entire collection of artefacts!  After months of nothing but bad news and seemingly endless new scandalous revelations of the malfeasance of the people who had run MPM, an institution dating back nearly as far as the founding of the city of Milwaukee, a deal was worked out with the museum's creditors and Milwaukee County chipped in some funds and a financial guarantee, that allowed MPM to obtain refinancing of its debt and interim financing to run a bare-bones operation until it, hopefully, could get back on its financial feet. 

Many long-term employees, people who had dedicated their lives to MPM and spent their entire careers there as curators, artists and assistants, were fired due to massive cut-backs in operating funds.  A former county executive of Waukesha County, Dan Findley, was brought onboard to run the Museum.  Findley wasn't an academic; he was a politician and administrator used to making tough decisions and he brought those skills to the fore in helping bring MPM out of the darkness. A whole host of behind-the-scenes movers and shakers in Milwaukee and environs came together to save the museum.  Read one account.  They, together with Findley and a new fund-raising team put in place literally saved the MPM from a Titanic-like fate!  Kudos to them.  Milwaukee was spared the ignominy of having to auction off the contents of its 150 year old natural history museum and sinking into the ranks of disdained poop-noodle town.

Findley has since moved on but not before bringing several block-buster exhibits to the MPM that helped turn it around financially as well as attracting huge attendance, breaking records, and putting MPM back on the map of world-class museums. 

Recent blockbuster exhibits have included the Titanic artifacts, Bodyworks, Pearls, and Mummies of the World. 

And now, Cleo is coming to town!  Too bad the tickets are so expensive.  When Mr. Don and I attended the incredible record-breaking exhibit "The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt" in 2004, the tickets were priced almost 50% less, and the exhibit was coordinated with Egypt-oriented films at the IMAX Theatre and a lecture series featuring notables such as Emily Teeter from the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute.  I fear the high ticket-prices will cut down on attendance.  The ongoing Great Recession has hit Milwaukee and surrounding areas hard.  Milwaukeeans are known to be frugal with their money in the best of times!  Not even one discount day a week - or a month - available to county residents?  What are they thinking?

Reported at JSOnline:

Big Cleopatra exhibit to rule at Milwaukee Public Museum
By Jackie Loohauis-Bennett of the Journal Sentinel
July 12, 2011

Merely entitled "Statue of a Queen."
Could this be the last Queen of Egypt?
The legend of history's most famous temptress sweeps into Milwaukee Oct. 14, when the Milwaukee Public Museum hosts a new international exhibition: "Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt."

The traveling exhibit will feature 150 artifacts associated with the famed Cleopatra VII, the queen who lived from 69 B.C. to 30 B.C. and earned a permanent place in history by becoming the lover of two Roman leaders: Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.

All the artifacts in "The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt" are on exhibit in the United States for the first time, and the Milwaukee stop will be the show's last in the U.S. before going overseas. More than a half-million visitors saw "Cleopatra" in Philadelphia and Cincinnati, according to John Norman, president of Arts and Exhibitions International, the show's producing company.

Visitors to the exhibit will be transported to Cleopatra's Egypt through a series of galleries displaying golden jewelry, ancient tools and armor, religious relics, statues and everyday items.

Artifacts include two 16-foot-tall, 5-ton stone statues of a pharaoh and his queen that once flanked the entrance to an ancient temple. An original papyrus document in the show is thought to have been handwritten by Cleopatra.

Many of the artifacts were recently discovered on land and underwater during two ongoing expeditions led by Zahi Hawass, the secretary-general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, who is known to American audiences from his appearances in such TV documentaries as "Chasing Mummies."

Some of the items were uncovered during Hawass' current search for Cleopatra's tomb near Alexandria.

French archaeologist Franck Goddio recovered many of the items during extensive underwater expeditions that uncovered Cleopatra's royal palace.

Part of the exhibit will give visitors a sense of experiencing underwater archaeology through theatrical lighting and sound effects.

"We get to tell an ancient story through modern technology," Norman said.

The show looks at the queen's legend - did she actually die of an asp bite? - and explores her image in pop culture from Shakespeare to Liz Taylor. The exhibit also tackles one of history's enduring questions: "Was Cleopatra really the sexiest woman who ever lived?"

"A short video at the beginning of the exhibit will give everyone enough information to enter Cleopatra's world, and, yes, we'll cover all her love interests," Norman said.

The exhibit's free audio tour is delivered by a voice representing "Cleo" herself. "We had a voice talent with a Greek accent portraying Cleopatra on the audio. Cleopatra was actually of Greek heritage and we wanted to be authentic," Norman said.

The exhibit also will examine just why this queen lost her throne.

"Cleopatra is one of the most enigmatic figures in history, and this exhibition does a wonderful job of exploring who she really was, and depicting the political upheaval that shaped her life," said Jay Williams, Milwaukee Public Museum president.

Tickets for the exhibit go on sale starting Tuesday online at or at (414) 223-4676 or (888) 700-9069.

Ticket prices for adults are $27.50 Mondays through Thursdays and $29.50 Fridays through Sundays; for seniors (60 and older), students and teens (13-17), $23.50 Mondays through Thursdays and $25.50 Fridays through Sundays; for children (3 to 12 years old), $19 Mondays through Thursdays, $20 Fridays through Sundays.

"Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt" was organized by the National Geographic Society and Arts and Exhibitions International in cooperation with the Supreme Council and the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology.

The exhibit's presenting sponsor is M&I Bank, now part of BMO Financial Group.

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