By Stephan Salisbury
The show will go on - Chinese mummies and all.
Following talks between Chinese cultural authorities in Beijing and officials of the U.S. Embassy there, over 100 artifacts from western China, including two unique mummies, will go on display for a limited time at the Penn Museum, university officials announced Friday.
The artifacts, part of a much-ballyhood exhibition, "Secrets of the Silk Road," were unexpectedly barred from exhibition by the Chinese just days before the show opened last Saturday, leaving Penn Museum officials scrambling to mount an important exhibit - the museum's first "blockbuster" - without any of the key artifacts.
But the mummies and the full complement of artifacts will now go on display from Feb. 18 through March 15 and the museum will extend its hours of operation to accommodate visitors. The mummies will then be removed from exhibition and the rest of the show, with all other artifacts, will remain on display from March 17 until March 28.
(A modified exhibition, which has been running since February 5, will close Sunday to install the mummies and artifacts, some of which are more than 3,800 years old.)
Penn officials were noncommittal about the cause of the delay. Museum officials said on Friday that the problems were the result of a "miscommunication," but declined to elaborate.
University and museum sources said prior to Friday's announcement that the exhibition had been the victim of bureaucratic missteps.
And officials at the Chinese Embassy in Washington said earlier this week that there had been miscommunication and that the Penn Museum was not a planned stop on the exhibition's tour.
"Secrets of the Silk Road" first opened at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California, before being shown at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
The Bowers museum was the organizing museum, and several museum sources said the Bowers would be responsible for negotiating proper permissions within the sometimes unwieldy Chinese cultural bureaucracy. Peter C. Keller, director of the museum, has not responded to several telephone requests for comment.
University officials singled out the assistance of Jon M. Huntsman Jr., U.S Ambassador to China and a Penn grad, and Zhang Yesui, Chinese ambassador to the United States, in negotiating the bureaucratic rapids.