Now Showing — Treasures of Ancient Eqypt

Not long after we moved to Portland, the Portland Art Museum hosted an exhibition entitled Splendors of Imperial Japan–Arts of the Meiji Period from the Khalili Collection. I really wanted to see it, so even though we had two small children, we journeyed downtown, put on the headsets, and wandered through the exhibition.

Well, we tried to wander through the exhibition. The children were profoundly bored. It was impossible to pay attention to the exhibits while simultaneously trying to keep the children quiet. I was dripping with sweat from trying to maneuver the stroller through the crowd, soaking the headset. While struggling down the stairs, one of the wheels of the stroller left a big black mark on the white wall. I couldn’t imagine being any more flustered and embarrassed.

Until we were in the gift shop, and my son squatted and proceeded to generate a pool of urine on the beautiful wood tile floor.

I was sufficiently scarred by the entire ordeal that I would break out in a cold sweat whenever anyone even mentioned the Art Museum.

But that was many years ago. Now that same son is studying ancient Egypt in second grade, and has been begging to go see the Eqypt exhibit. So, we checked out a cultural pass from the Washington County Library, and paid one arm and one leg for tickets to “The Quest for Immortality — Treasures of Ancient Eqypt” on Friday night.

We made something of an evening of it, and went to Romano’s Macaroni Grill beforehand for dinner. We told our server, Elias, that we had to be at the art museum in an hour, and he did a yoeman’s job of getting our dinner served efficiently without making it feel rushed.

I know that Macaroni Grill is a chain, and so I will get grief from all the food snobs for even setting foot in there, but the balsamic vinaigrette on the side salad was terrific, and the vodka rustica was absolutely delicious — penne pasta, grilled chicken, and prosciutto, tossed with a light vodka sauce, topped with Parmesan, and baked until bubbly.

We made it on time, and the Egypt exhibit was wonderful. The self-guided tour is narrated by Jeremy Irons, and the quality of the exhibits is superb. Looking at them, it is difficult to believe that these artifacts were shaped by the hands of artisans more than 2400 years ago. My son showed off his superior knowledge of Egyptology by correcting our pronunciation of the names of the Pharoahs, and explained the purpose of various objects in their cases. He’s into it.

And it was easy to be fascinated. From the somewhat gruesome details of the funerary procedures, to the elaborate mythology of the sun god’s journey through the netherworld every night, it was not hard to be engrossed. I encourage all of you to try and see these amazing pieces of human history before they move on to another city.

The only wrinkle came in the gift shop, after we had all finished viewing the exhibition, when my son suddenly crouched slightly, knees together, with a pained look on his face. My memory of our last visit to the gift shop sparked a full-blown panic attack. Fortunately, although he may not yet be capable of always visiting the restroom before it becomes urgent, my son is now able to make it to a restroom when he has to, and we were able to avoid the kind of unpleasant scene that occurred last time.

“The Quest for Immortality — Treasures of Ancient Eqypt” will be at the Portland Art Museum through March 4, 2007.

16 Comments so far

  1. Kevin (unregistered) on February 25th, 2007 @ 11:07 pm

    A stroller in an art museum?


  2. Mary Sue (unregistered) on February 26th, 2007 @ 11:17 am

    I like Romano’s Macaroni Grill. It reminds me of home, where they sprout like weeds and my family frequents them on major occasions (had my ‘Just-Got-My-Master’s-Degree-Yay-Me!’ dinner there).

    Now, if you’d said Applebees, well, we would have had words…

  3. Susan (unregistered) on February 26th, 2007 @ 1:35 pm

    With all due respect, I cannot fathom why parents take babies and toddlers to art museums. At best, they will get nothing out of it. At worst… well, you describe it.

    You said YOU wanted to see the exhibit, so why not go alone and hire a babysitter? That’s what we did when our girls were young. It’s a much better experience for everyone, including the other patrons who.

  4. PAgent (unregistered) on February 26th, 2007 @ 1:48 pm

    First of all, we tried it ONCE. It didn’t work out, we didn’t try it again.

    Second, I would disagree that “at best, they will get nothing out of it”. At the time, my daughter was old enough to enjoy seeing the sculptures and the paintings, and it’s possible that her brother might have gotten something out of it as well, even at his age. It’s difficult to predict what value a child will get out of ANYTHING, unless you expose them to it and find out. And my kids have a pretty good track record of behaving in public.

    And although I don’t remember if this had ANYTHING to do with it, we were new to town and hadn’t found any baby sitters that we liked and trusted yet.

    While it didn’t work out that well, I’m not prepared to say that it was a foregone conclusion beforehand that it wouldn’t work out well. In any event, we tried it once and didn’t try it again for another five years.

    And I’d rather be the guy that took his kids to the art museum, than the guy that took his kids to the R-rated slasher flick.

  5. Lisa (unregistered) on February 26th, 2007 @ 6:26 pm

    Your son urinated on the floor of a museum? I’m sorry, but I just can’t get over this. I’ve never seen a child do this, especially in a museum. That is appalling.

  6. PAgent (unregistered) on February 26th, 2007 @ 6:47 pm

    Perhaps I’m naive, but when I drafted this entry it never occured to me that no one would be interested in the exhibit, and everyone would be interested in my choice to take my kids to a museum.

    Lisa, I take it you’ve never taken a child through potty-training? Never had a child have an ‘accident’? Ever?

    Would your solution be to never take a child ANYWHERE until you had an iron-clad guarantee that they would never embarrass you?

  7. Kevin (unregistered) on February 26th, 2007 @ 7:14 pm

    PAgent, I’ve seen the Egypt exhibit; you’re right. It’s great.

    At first, I wasn’t sure whether this was a parody or not…adopting a Colbert-ish persona of a modern urban dad doing all the wrong things, completely oblivious to everyone around him. But I guess it’s not; it’s genuine, and that’s sad.

    I feel sorry for everyone involved. Sorry for the museum workers who received a “pool” of urine on their floor.

    Sorry for the little boy who was either too young or not ready for such an excursion and ended up soiling himself in public. (And on a Friday NIGHT…not an afternoon – if he was overstressed, it’s no wonder!)

    And sorry for the other people who paid, as you said, an arm and a leg for the Japan exhibit only to be confronted with a father bumping a stroller through the crowd, trying in vain to keep his kids quiet. (I wonder how many of them managed to find a babysitter so they could enjoy the exhibit without being disturbed or disturbing anyone else.)

    And your argument – “I’d rather be the guy that took his kids to the art museum, than the guy that took his kids to the R-rated slasher flick” – it’s just ridiculous. It’s not one or the other; both are equally inappropriate. It sounds like your son is old enough now for such an experience, but he wasn’t then, and everyone else – the museum staff, the patrons, and your own child – were the worse for it.

  8. Anonymous (unregistered) on February 26th, 2007 @ 10:20 pm

    First, I’m anon. because I’m a docent at the Portland Art Museum – though my opinions of course don’t represent them.

    We LOVE children at the museum, I am so glad that you would bring your children – stroller and all. (And a little pool of urine… so what guys – he’s a kid! – and it’s a great story.)

    BTW I believe Portland Art Museum hosted something like 28,000 school children for the Egyptian exhibition, and we were happy to have them all.

    Personally I can’t think of any better way to introduce the world to a child than to bring them to Portland Art Museum and show them the wonders of the world.

    Bravo, Dad.

  9. Parker (unregistered) on February 26th, 2007 @ 11:21 pm

    Yeah, where do you get off trying to instill a taste for fine arts and culture in young children? Don’t you know they should be at home watching lots of television so self-important hipsters can enjoy it all to themselves?

    Know where else kids pee on the floor Lisa? OMSI. A Science Museum. A small price to pay that they grow up feeling comfortable around environmental education.

    And Kevin, he’s obviously picking a very singular event to contrast the nice full experience he had later. Sorry you expected it to be Swift writing A Modest Proposal. Is this site always full of righteous windbags telling people how to raise their kids? Go chase some out of the library, they’re letting families in there now too!

  10. Betsy (unregistered) on February 27th, 2007 @ 6:24 am

    Sure, there are the stroller parents who obliviously plow through crowds with their SUV-style strollers, bashing patrons in the shins and using their child’s vehicle as a battering ram. These are the same parents who take their children everywhere, let them wreak havoc on restaurant tables, and expect the world to applaud and/or include their progeny 24/7. They give the rest of us parents a bad name.

    It *is* possible to be a responsible stroller user. I remember using an unobtrusive umbrella stroller in public places, for example, without so much as a sideways glance. That’s because I didn’t use it to carve out pathways for my family, skirted around the edges of a crowd when things got temporarily congested, and never, EVER tried to maneuver it up or down stairs, for starters.

    I know PAgent. He’s not part of the Stroller Mafia – not then, not now. Beating him up for something that he’s already admitted wasn’t a great idea in retrospect seems hardly warranted here.

  11. David Hahn (unregistered) on February 27th, 2007 @ 3:47 pm

    Good for you , PAGENT. We plan on taking our 2 year old girl as well. Deal with it Kevin, Susan, Lisa and Mary Sue. I want my child exposed to the arts, stroller and all.

  12. divebarwife (unregistered) on February 27th, 2007 @ 3:55 pm

    David – Did you know they have special days and tours every weekend at the museum just for kids? Happiness for both sides.

  13. Lisa (unregistered) on February 27th, 2007 @ 6:09 pm

    David, why are you so hell bent on making sure other people at the museum have a bad time?

  14. Mick (unregistered) on February 27th, 2007 @ 6:44 pm


    There’s nothing wrong with taking your little kids to the art museum. Art is for everyone.


  15. David Hahn (unregistered) on February 27th, 2007 @ 9:02 pm

    I’m not Hellbent on anything. Presuming that my child (or any child) is going to ruin your good time at the museum just because they are children is ignorant and frankly, a juvenile way of thinking. Not all parents let their kids run amok and make noise and act inapproriately. Please give credit that a parent who cares enough to take their child to an art museum is going to be polite and socially aware enough to not let their kids be disruptive. We know the museum is not Chuck.E Cheese’s, okay?

  16. tim (unregistered) on March 2nd, 2007 @ 12:32 pm


    Sweet review … the choice of Mac Grill though, well, I’ll let it slide, because I’ve had a few decent meals there and I agree that the service is generally pretty good. Plus, they’re more family oriented than, for example, Higgin’s or South Park, neither of which offer the fun (though potentially disastrous) combination of paper tablecloths + crayons … and this is a distinction more or less unique to Mac Grill among downtown restaurants, especially since the indefinite closure of the Brasserie.

    It’s unfortunate that so much of the commentary focused on your prior visit to the museum rather than the main thrust of your review, which is the current exhibit and your family’s enjoyment of it. Even though I have no kids, I admit that I’m more likely to check it out on my own than I was before, hearing of your family’s (and your son’s) enthusiasm about it.

    Perhaps I’ll take a stroller with me, you know, just for fun. :)

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