One hundred years after the discovery of the tomb of King Tutankhamun (known colloquially as King Tut), Bostonians can experience living history in their own backyard. “Beyond King Tut: The Immersive Experience,” the latest projection-powered cinematic gallery to take over the South End’s SoWa Power Station, opened Friday and runs through Oct 2.
The show draws from National Geographic’s photo library and original animation to illustrate the Egyptian pharaoh’s life, mummification process, the tomb’s discovery, and King Tut’s impact on pop culture. The production is produced through a partnership among the National Geographic Society, Immersive Experiences, and Paquin Entertainment Group, the folks behind the “Beyond Van Gogh” and “Beyond Monet” touring immersive experiences.
“The Van Gogh’s, the Monet’s — they’re beautiful shows,” said creative producer Mark Lach of other immersive exhibits. “But they’re artists’ paintings that surround you.”
“This is story line-driven,” he continued. “It’s not just immersive. It’s a nine-gallery experience that progressively tells the story.”
Visitors start their journey in a projection room with a brief informational video about the boy king who died at age 19. All narration in the exhibit is open-captioned, with three of the nine galleries featuring audible storytelling.
“Prepare to go beyond the legend, beyond the mask, beyond King Tut,” the narration announces as the music climaxes and a sliding door opens into a maze-like room which details the 1922 tomb discovery by British archeologist Howard Carter.
“We want to use the occasion of the 100th anniversary to be able to provide a 2022 perspective on the discovery,” said Kathryn Keane, executive director of the National Geographic Museum. “There’s no question that the discovery was made during the period of colonialism.”
According to Lach, the exhibit seeks to highlight Egypt’s role in the discovery and further research into the tomb and Tut. One content panel discusses the British protectorate government’s hand in granting excavation permits, which allowed Europeans and Americans to remove artifacts from Egypt. A move, explains the panel, that disconnected “the Egyptian people from their own heritage. Tutankhamun’s tomb broke that tradition, and every artifact remains carefully curated in Egypt.”
Beyond the cinematic storytelling, there are additional tangible elements to interact within the rooms. One gallery contains a to-scale replica of Tut’s sarcophagus, which is also used as a projection surface. While walking through the exhibit, guests can stop to play Senet, an ancient Egyptian board game, and take a seat on a boat, as they watch an original animation following Tut’s journey into the afterlife.
“This never will replace that experience of seeing things firsthand,” said Lach, who was also involved with the King Tut artifact exhibit which was supposed to come to Boston in 2020 but was canceled due to the pandemic. “But I do think that this may be the future of experiencing art.”
The exhibit contains no real artifacts, but the projections offer a closer look at the details on the artifacts — like Tut’s scarab amulet and walking canes — than you may get in real life. Guests should budget one hour to walk through, but they can linger as they please. Patrons can walk through a virtual reality tour of Tut’s tomb for an additional fee.
Tickets start at $32.50 for adults and $22.50 for children ages 5-15 (plus ticketing fees). Children 4 and under do not need tickets. Package rates for families, seniors (on Tuesdays), military, and groups are available. For more information, visit beyondkingtut.com
Serena Puang was a Globe intern in 2022. Follow her on Twitter @SerenaPuang.