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I’m In: Mummies!

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By Jeannine Sherman
Director of Public Relations
VISIT Milwaukee

Before today, everything I knew about mummies would fit into a sarcophagus the size of a thimble. They come from Egypt, they’re wrapped in bandages, and if you wake them up you’re in for a world of hurt.  This minefield of misinformation was gleaned during an impressionable childhood filled with a steady diet of Saturday morning reruns of Scooby Doo cartoons and old, black-and-white horror movies.

Mummies of the World, running now through May 30th at the Milwaukee Public Museum, changed all that. It’s an extraordinary display – the largest traveling exhibition of mummies and related artifacts ever assembled – and the Museum is only the second venue to host this must-see. If you’re like me, it will leave you both fascinated and profoundly moved.

First, the fascinating.

I was amazed to learn mummies have been found everywhere from splendid tombs to hidden caves and on every continent, with the exception of Antarctica. The exhibit includes human and animal mummies from South America, Europe, Asia, Oceania and Egypt. Not all mummies are intentional. Sometimes, Mother Nature steps in – arid deserts, extreme cold and ice, and acidic bogs are prime environments for natural mummification.

Cool multi-media and hands-on interactive stations tell exactly how mummies are created. You’ll also learn what’s in a mummyologist’s high-tech tool kit and how these scientists use state-of-the-art techniques such as DNA analysis and CT scans to gain insight into ancient civilizations and cultures.

The breadth of the exhibit is amazing. While Egyptian mummies are well represented, Mummies of the World includes a 6,420-year-old child mummy from Peru, an entire family that was part of a group of 18th century mummies discovered in a long-forgotten church crypt in Hungary, and the mummy of a 17th century nobleman discovered in a German castle.

Now, the profoundly moving.

The Statement of Ethics at the entrance to the exhibit hit me like a ton of bricks. It frames the experience by reminding you that the mummies are far more than relics of antiquity. They are the remains of human beings.

Each one is a silent and eloquent testament to a life and a story as individual as any fingerprint.  At the same time, they remind us of the universal connection we all share.

From the amulet lovingly tucked into the garments of a young child to the graceful lines of the South American mummies, “seated for eternity,” a humbling humanity permeates the displays.

It brings home the questions “Who were they? How did they live? What can they teach us? What secrets do they hold?”

Details: Mummies of the World runs through May 30th at the Milwaukee Public Museum. Tickets are timed entry and include general Museum admission. The Museum recommends allowing two hours to explore the exhibit. Add to the experience via a self-guided audio tour on headphones.

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I’m In: The 2011 Polar Bear Plunge.

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By Jeannine Sherman
Director of Public Relations
VISIT Milwaukee

It’s back.

Every 365 days the New Year comes knocking. Problem is, it’s usually bringing an uninvited guest or two. That last ten pounds. A big, bad nicotine habit. Your ex, twice removed. You don’t HAVE to open the door, but you’re not fooling anyone.

You know they’re out there, waiting.

January 1 is an important benchmark for many people– a day set aside to challenge ourselves to reimagine, reinvent, and reinvigorate. 

Which means it’s the perfect time to debut my new VISIT Milwaukee blog, “I’m In.” Join me as I explore Milwaukee. Check out places you haven’t been, or haven’t been lately. Let’s get real  – as far as resolutions go, getting out of the house is way more appealing than getting organized, right?

In that spirit, I headed to Milwaukee’s lakefront New Year’s Day to watch the Polar Bear Plunge. No, I didn’t take off my sixteen layers of clothing and run screaming with wild abandon into the water in the face of 15 degree temperature and howling winds. Seriously – while I have no problem encouraging everyone ELSE to open the door, I’m a little hesitant myself. Besides, when you’re bundled up like the Michelin Man, it’s a little hard to work a zipper.

Baby steps, people, baby steps.

The atmosphere was equal parts Mardi Gras and Peary’s expedition to the North Pole. Picture an arctic landscape of frozen sand, gray-green water ….and an abundance of local wildlife that had staked out Bradford Beach as base camp.

Within ten minutes of arriving in this temporary tent city, I ran into Elvis, an aphid-colored alien, and the kind of impromptu body-painting on the part of die-hard Wisconsin fans that would impress the heck out of Kat Von D.  Why ask why, right? You gotta love the spirit of people who will pare down to a string bikini, yet make sure the family dog is wearing protective snow boots.

Really.

Intestinal fortitude was high and the mood was infectious as noon approached and the baptismal cry sounded. (And you were wondering what to do with that used vuvuzela you picked up at the World Cup.)  It’s hard not to smile as your fellow citizens take on Mother Nature in various states of costumed undress. As I watched them race into Lake Michigan, I started to get a total case of goose-bump and frozen-hair envy. I realized …it’s what we’re all about and I wanted to be a part of it.

Milwaukeeans have moxie. They’re genuine and true and they’re always up for hanging out with friends and having a good time. It doesn’t matter whether it’s cheering at a tailgate party, dancing at a festival…or even jumping into a Great Lake in the middle of winter wearing little more than a smile and a Green Bay Packers Speedo two sizes too small.

Nine times out of ten, when you ask us…we’re going to say ‘Okay, I’m in!”

How about you?

There’s only 360 days left this year, let’s get started!

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