the rosicrucian egyptian museum
Paul's note: In a great treat, Bill shares a report on his visit to one of the Bay Area's lesser known attractions. This is his second contribution to (at least) one cool thing. Bill writes:
I visited the The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose as a kid and had vague memories of massive Egyptian columns and shriveled mummies. I'm not sure why it took me so long to visit again, but I'm glad we took the 4 kids there last weekend. The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum has been in San Jose since the 1930's. The current museum building was completed in 1966 and is a replica of the Temple of Amun at Karnak. The museum is just one of several ancient Egyptian style buildings located in Rosicrucian Park, set (rather unexpectedly) in the middle of a residential neighborhood on Naglee Ave in San Jose.
While the museum and its collection are impressive, we enjoyed the surrounding park even more. To get from the parking lot to the main museum, we had to wander through shady paths past papyrus reeds, monumental Egyptian statuary, (including a fake obelisk), a peaceful lily pond, and several small Egyptian temples. I was even able to convince the kids (well, at least my 3 year old) that one of the exotic looking trees in the park is the type that occasionally eats people.
The main entrance to the museum is on Park Ave, behind a pool with a blue statue of the Egyptian hippo goddess, Taweret. (I'll admit, I had to look up her name). The best part of the museum was the full scale copy of a real underground tomb in Egypt, complete with accurate paintings on the walls and ceilings and a replica of the stone sarcophagus that had been broken into by tomb robbers. It's a bit dark and scary at first for little kids, but after assuring them that there were no real mummies inside, a nice volunteer gave us a guided tour with a flashlight.
Emerging from the tomb unscathed, we wandered through the rooms of the multi-level museum. (Note that the building is not wheelchair accessible). The museum has a surprisingly rich collection of artifacts from ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, including authentic mummies, cuneiform clay tablets, and a rare statue of the legendary Cleopatra VII, Macedonian descendent of Alexander the Great's general Ptolemy and mother of Julius Caesar's son. They also have several good replicas, including the famous bust of the beautiful Queen Nefertiti and excellent copies of original Assyrian sculptures now housed in the British Museum. For a break, we sat down and watched a video of scientists exploring the inside of some of the mummies.
While the kids and I particularly enjoyed the small-scale models of pyramids, tombs and palaces, my wife gravitated towards the museum store. They have an excellent selection of books, videos, statuettes and jewelry. We bought a wooden version of the ancient Egyptian game, Senet. The museum has a 3,500 year old, cedar wood Senet game on display, and there is a large concrete Senet board with oversized playing pieces on the park grounds outside.
We noticed that some of the staff were wearing ancient Egyptian-style amulets. The museum is run by the Rosicrucian Order AMORC, which, according to their website, is a "philosophic and initiatic tradition that studies natural laws in order to live in harmony with them." Interests seem to range from meditation to alchemy. Don't let this put you off. The staff is very professional and friendly. The ones with the mystical necklaces seem like the harmless folks you run into at a Dungeons & Dragons convention, (although I'm not admitting to having attended one of those). ;-)
The one thing we didn't check out was the on site Planetarium, currently running a show about the ancient mystery religion of Mithraism. It's too early to say if we picked up any mummy's curses from our tomb exploration, but overall we had a great time and definitely plan on returning.
Bonus link: more museum photos on flick