Cleopatra: returning to the surface

Cleopatra, former Queen of Egypt, remains a mystery to this day. Was Cleopatra a seducer of men? Did Cleopatra die from a snake bite? Was she even Egyptian? The Cincinnati Museum Center seeks to unlock her secrets with a brand new exhibit, “Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt.”

For many, Cleopatra is a symbol of tantalizing seduction. This is only one of many misconceptions believed of Cleopatra over the years.

While it is true that Cleopatra, the last of the Ptolemaic dynasty and the last pharaoh of Egypt, was beautiful she was also highly intelligent. She spoke seven languages, ruled Egypt with a strong hand, wrote several books and sought to rule the world. Cleopatra is credited with being the first of her Macedonian Greek line to learn the Egyptian language.

The Cleopatra exhibit was prepared by National Geographic and Arts and Exhibitions International, with the assistance of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities and the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM). With an exhibit of almost 150 artifacts, ranging from statues, coins, jewelry and a papyrus, written in what is believed to be the hand of Cleopatra, the Cincinnati Museum Center has brought a unique experience to all. As you walk through rooms full of artifacts and treasures from Cleopatra’s reign you can’t help but feel transported to the sands of ancient Egypt.

Many of these artifacts have been unearthed through various ongoing excavations. Franck Goddio, a French underwater archaeologist and the director of IEASM, is responsible for the excavation that discovered Cleopatra’s royal palace and two ancient cities of Canopus and Heracleion under the waters of the Mediterranean Coast.

Douglass W. McDonald, president and CEO of Cincinnati Museum Center, shared his excitement surrounding the Cleopatra exhibit in a press release on Dec. 2, 2010.

“I am so proud that Cincinnati Museum Center is able to provide our community with this tremendous window on the world and Cleopatra’s remarkable story,” McDonald said.

The Cincinnati Museum Center is the second stop out of five cities and is the only city in the Midwest to receive this exhibit. Casey Kroger, the marketing communications coordinator at the Cincinnati Museum Center, says this is “definitely a not-to-miss experience.”

“This exhibition is fascinating because while it has the gorgeous statues, jewelry and coins, you expect to see at a museum. It also takes you through the search for Cleopatra’s tomb that’s happening today,” Kroger said.

Violet Rae Downey, senior director of tourism and group sales at the Cincinnati Museum Center, believes this is an important exhibit for college students to visit.

“It is not often that you get to see new discoveries that confirm or dispel myths,” Downey said. “’Cleopatra: The Exhibition’ provides evidence of a savvy leader and woman no less who was quite the politician. She used this skill not only to win the respect of her constituents, but also to negotiate for military protection during volatile times. There are many parallels in the world today and much to be learned from the life and times of this last Pharaoh of Egypt.”

The exhibit runs from Feb. 18 through Sept. 5. Tickets are $23 for adults, $19 for senior citizens and $15 for children. All tickets are timed, and come with an audio tour. Photography is not permitted, but souvenirs can be purchased through the exhibit gift shop. For groups of 15 or more, adult group tickets can be purchased for $19. For more information about “Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt,” visit the Cincinnati Museum Center website at

Story by Shawn Buckenmeyer