the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation s virtual exhibition
“Experiencing Heritage: A digital bridge between Egypt and Italy” is an immersive experience combining three different digitization models: 360 degrees, 2D animation, and 3D interactive virtual reality. It aims to promote Italy’s cultural heritage and its preservation with the help of a virtual journey through photographs by Italian art director Sergio Iovino, which allows viewers to travel to the most prestigious and significant cultural sites in Italy and Egypt, highlighting their synergies and connections.
Opening at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation (NMEC) on 14 February, with more than 400 people, the exhibition was inaugurated by Ambassador of Italy to Egypt Michele Quaroni, NMEC Managing Executive Director Ahmed Ghoneim and Italian Cultural Institute in Cairo Director Davide Scalmani.
Using virtual reality, the event highlighted the extraordinary richness and diversity of Italian and Egyptian intangible heritage as a symbol of the Mediterranean cultural union. The goal was to sensitize the general public to the importance of protecting and promoting such heritage both in Italy and Egypt, promoting the preservation of local artistic expressions, including folk costumes, musical instruments, and traditional dances.
“This is a pilot project which aims to develop, in collaboration with Egyptian partners, the digitization of cultural, museum and archaeological heritage in Egypt as well”, said Iovino.
In the gallery of NMEC, the exhibition showcases 15 panels with photos taken by Iovino from Rome, Florence, Venice, Castel del Monte, Benevento and Cairo, together with a special display of photographs of Cairo on a 3D map. At the end of the gallery, Lino Strangis, a well-known multimedia artist, together with the performer Veronica D’Auria, staged a multimedia virtual reality performance combining contemporary technologies with traditional Egyptian dance featuring the wings of Isis. In addition, there is a circular installation of the museum (equipped with virtual floors and walls), where images of the waters of the Nile and a 360 degree felucca tour were created on site.
According to Scalmani, “The evolution of Italian and Egyptian art and culture over the centuries is the centerpiece of an unprecedented exhibition that builds on the glorious past of our two countries and projects them in the future. Tonight we are offering you a special performance based on the intangible heritage of Italy and Egypt and its enormous historical significance, which testifies to their cultural proximity. The Tahteeb and Tarantella dances,” the Egyptian stick dance which dates all the way back to the fifth dynasty and the southern Italian spider venom-excorcism dance which dates back to the 15th century, respectively, “are given new life in our opening show.”
The stars were Luisa Russo, Italian singer, contemporary dancer, artistic researcher on the Mediterranean folk dance and music including Tarantella and flamenco, and Hany Hassan, first dancer at Forsan El-Sharq troupe for heritage, and also a traditional and contemporary Tahteeb choreographer and trainer.
The event also featured spectacular folk shows by the AUC Alumni Folklore group, which performed a number of original choreographies created by the late master Mahmoud Reda, founder of Reda troupe for Folk Arts, as a tribute to his legacy.
The virtual museum is scheduled to show at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo from 5 to 9 March 2023 and at Alexabdria’s Bibliotheca Alexandrina from 12 to 19 March 2023. It will remain on view at the NMEC until 27 February.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 23 February, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly