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OMSI reaches way back in time for relevant exhibits

'Lost Egypt' brings in mummy fans, future plans focus on energy
by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT Brianna Wolterman (center) holds Kanoa Buckley, 2, as they look at “Annie” (short for Anonymous), an unidentified girl whose body was purportedly pulled from the Nile River and mummified — on display at OMSI's

Inside the glass case and under a mask, a red shroud and foot casing there is a young Egyptian woman from about 220 B.C., nicknamed 'Annie' for anonymous because nobody knows who she is.

No one has seen her face since her death, and science tells us that her skin has been stripped of moisture to the point of being leathery or resembling beef jerky. But the body features remain intact, albeit hidden, and the diminutive mummy on display serves as the inspiration for the new exhibit at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, 'Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science.'

Following in the footsteps of 'Samson,' the mummy and artifacts and modern science aspect of 'Lost Egypt' just adds to the wonder presented at OMSI, located at 1945 S.E. Water Ave., and it has been very popular - 'Lost Egypt' runs through May 1. But, organizers plan to proactively go in another direction with future exhibits.

Mark Patel, vice president of marketing, says OMSI is set to embark on a new five-year plan to emphasize core areas for new exhibits: energy and environment focused on sustainability, innovation and engineering and human health and wellness.

'We're looking at picking our exhibits, and we'll occasionally do blockbuster exhibits, because they're fun and bring people in,' Patel says.

But, 'people want relevance, people are so crowded with information these days,' he adds. 'OMSI has a rare place, where people tend to trust museums. We have sort of a community responsibility to provide issues behind what's going on.'

Patel says OMSI sees itself as a pivotal player in education, and in the future will be 'a hub' with planned street car expansion through its neighborhood and a pedestrian bridge exiting near the museum. He says OMSI plans to utilize land next to the building, land donated by PGE several years ago.

Upcoming at OMSI is 'Game 2.0,' which is all about the video gaming industry, from the very first video game to the latest three-dimensional products.

Another future exhibit, 'Race,' will focus on the differences among people, as far as genetics and social issues. OMSI hopes to finalize an exhibit titled 'Nature Unleashed,' which will deal with climate change and tornadoes and earthquakes and mud slides.

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Tribune photo: Christopher Onstott • (From right) Patrick Willey, Reese Patamjo and Bobby Burgess try to build a dam and control the flow of water at OMSI's Watershed Lab. Energy and environment, as they pertain to sustainability, will be part of the focus of OMSI's future exhibits.

Two permanent exhibits will be built: one focusing on alternative energy, explaining wind, solar and wave energy, a second on sustainability and people making sustainable decisions every day. In addition, besides having a new electric car charging station, OMSI hopes to install an eco-roof, solar panels and wind turbine in the future, as well as provide sustainable food and green products for sale.

'We're trying to change things from the very top end down to what kind of business card we're printing,' Patel says. 'We're now saying, 'This is what we do, we're a landmark in those areas.''

Large exhibits in the wake of 'Samson' and 'Lost Egypt' will continue. 'It's not an 'either/or,' we're saying it's an 'and,' ' Patel adds. 'The large chunk of our visitors, 60 to 70 percent, are families with young kids. You can do (larger exhibits) in ways that are clever. We're trying to build that bridge, tie in directly to relevant areas we're focusing on.'

Relevant issues aside, nothing stirs the imagination more than something like 'Lost Egypt,' which harkens back to the time of pharaohs and queens, the great pyramids built by slaves (or were they offseason farmers and craftsmen?) and the mighty Nile River.

Archaeologists are unsure about many things, presenting theories - it's the nature of their game. They theorize that 'Annie' could have been fished from the Nile, a sacred river, and perhaps mummified out of pity, says Kirsten Goldman, an OMSI science educator. Historians believe that millions of early Egyptians were mummified, and other evidence suggest nearly everyone was mummified in the thousands of years of ancient Egypt.

OMSI's exhibit displays artifacts such as scarabs and amulets, and hieroglyphics of funeral processions and passage into the afterlife - Goldman says one theory has it that dignitaries of the day hired mourners to indicate importance. It also focuses on modern science, which researchers now rely on as mummies are not unwrapped anymore, because doing so destroys evidence.

Just like when one visits the hospital, mummies are now put through a CAT scan, examined with less invasive three-dimensional imaging and body and facial busts can be built to somewhat accurately depict the form underneath the shroud. So, 'Annie' has been depicted as a young, smiling woman with long hair.

'Lost Egypt' might not compare in magnitude to the great 'King Tut' exhibit, or have the sheer number as in 'Mummies,' but it's pretty significant.