On April 28, 1967, U. S. President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded an ancient Egyptian temple built in the first century B.C.—a gift from Egypt to the United States—to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Today, the structure—The Temple of Dendur in the Sackler Wing—is one of the iconic and most beloved works of art at The Met. During the month of April, the Museum will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the award with organized events, informational displays, new content for the website, and a publication for families.
In celebration of the anniversary, the temple has been cleaned from roof to floor, freshening the appearance of the red-brown Nubian sandstone. New informational panels detail the temple’s ancient history and political and religious significance, visits of 19th-century explorers and tourists, and the rescue of the temple during the 1960–80 UNESCO Campaign to Save the Monuments of Nubia.
During the month of April, the original award letter, a memo announcing the temple’s arrival in New York, and a photograph showing crates with temple blocks being unloaded from the freighter Concordia Star will be on view near the temple.
The ground-breaking digital light display Color the Temple, originally shown in 2016, will be reprised April 1–23 at The Temple of Dendur (4 p.m. to closing, daily). The light display combines the scholarly knowledge of specialists in the Museum’s Department of Egyptian Art with the technological expertise of staff in the Digital Department to provide visitors with an insightful perspective on ancient art: colors that likely decorated the structure 2,000 years ago are projected onto a ritual scene carved into the sandstone of the temple’s exterior. In the scene, the Roman emperor Augustus, depicted as a pharaoh, makes an offering to Egyptian deities. Completed by 10 B.C., the temple’s external walls no longer have their original color due to weathering, particularly that which was caused by annual flooding after the first Aswan Dam was completed in 1903. Color the Temple offers an eye-opening experience of this well-known work of art.
New essays about various aspects of the temple, written by staff in the Departments of Egyptian Art and Objects Conservation, will be included in a special 50th-anniversary feature on The Met website. Topics include the temple’s cult and decoration; its architecture; representations in 19th-century art and photography; and cleaning and conservation. In addition, there will be a video interview with Diana Craig Patch, the Lila Acheson Wallace Curator in Charge of the Department of Egyptian Art. Other recent materials relevant to The Temple of Dendur will also be available on the website. A different archival photograph from the temple’s history will be posted on Instagram each week in April, and images from the anniversary month will be featured on Facebook and Twitter.
The temple will be the focus of Saturday Sketching on April 8, at 1–3 p.m. Intended for ages 11–18, the program is free and materials are provided, but advance registration is required. The temple will be one of the works on the itinerary for Art Explore, a free program of guided looking, for young visitors ages 11–14, on Sunday, April 23, at 1-3 p.m. Reservations are encouraged. On April 13, at 11 a.m., The Temple of Dendur will be the focus of a Conversation with a Curator led by Associate Curator Isabel Stünkel. The program is free with Museum admission. The complete schedule of events taking place in conjunction with the anniversary will be available on The Met website.
Families with children will enjoy the new Family Guide: Explore The Temple of Dendur, a colorful, kid-friendly brochure, available at no charge at the information desks in the Museum’s Great Hall and Ruth and Harold D. Uris Center for Education, as well as near the temple. Among the guide’s contents are a map, fun facts, words to know, and activities. The brochure will also be available digitally on the website.
Please note that the Temple of Dendur will be closed from April 25 through May 4, 2017.
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Updated April 18, 2017
Above: The Temple of Dendur. Reign of Augustus Caesar, completed by 10 B.C. From Egypt, Nubia, Dendur, West bank of the Nile River, 50 miles South of Aswan. Aeolian sandstone. Given to the United States by Egypt in 1965, awarded to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1967, and installed in The Sackler Wing in 1978
Image: The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Brooks Walker