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SGI Technology Powers World Tour of British Museum’s Remarkable Mummy Exhibition


MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (March 8, 2006)—History fans and students throughout Alabama are looking forward to meeting an unlikely but unforgettable visitor - a priest who has traveled across 6,000 miles and 3,000 years to reveal in dramatic detail how ancient Egyptians preserved and honored their dead.

With “Mummy: the inside story,” The British Museum’s hit exhibition that showcases the mummy of Nesperennub, an ancient Egyptian cleric, the Gulf Coast Exploreum will play host to an array of priceless artifacts and high-tech visualizations that unravel the mystery of mummification. Currently on the U.S. leg of a world tour that later will include cities in Asia, “Mummy: the inside story” recently completed its showing at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and is set to open in Mobile, Alabama on March 9, 2006 for a six-month run.

“Calling this simply an ’exhibition’ does not do justice to the extraordinary experiences that await visitors to this remarkable presentation,” said Exploreum Executive Director Michael Sullivan. “The interactive, 3D elements offer us an unforgettable chance to view, up close and in amazing detail, a world that has been clouded in mystery for thousands of years. The SGI Realty Center allows us to bring this story to life in ways that traditional exhibit approaches simply can’t match. Without doubt, this is the kind of technology that will help all museums captivate audiences in an increasingly media-saturated world.”

The exhibition combines 90 objects from The British Museum’s famed collection of Egyptian antiquities with a unique and dynamic element: an immersive 3D theater powered by visualization technology from Silicon Graphics.

For audiences accustomed to relying on X-rays and drawings to imagine what curators might find inside a mummy’s sarcophagus, the exhibition offers an exciting 3D fly-through of Nesperennub’s actual remains. The visualization combines 1,900 Computed Tomography (CT) scans taken of the mummy, its wrappings, and outer casing. The groundbreaking, non-invasive procedure uncovers more detail than could ever be revealed by unwrapping and damaging Nesperennub’s fragile remains.

“When the exhibition opened in London last year, with the SGI theater as the centerpiece, the impact on audiences was immediate and profound,” said Dr. John Taylor, assistant keeper of Egyptian antiquities, The British Museum. “Although it is the first British Museum exhibit ever to be built around visualization technology, it has uncovered important insights not only about Nesperennub himself, but about how he was mummified. In Nesperennub, we’ve discovered many interesting objects that we have not seen in other mummies at the British Museum. To fuel enthusiasm in Egyptian studies abroad, we felt it was vital that the exhibition benefit as many people as possible, and we’re delighted to see it excite and enlighten audiences in America.”

The immersive experience is displayed on a 12-foot-tall and 42-foot-wide curved screen and powered by an SGI® Reality Center® installation that is traveling with the exhibition. It allows visitors wearing 3D-stereo eyeglasses to virtually explore the kind of tomb in which Nesperennub was buried, next to his wife, on the opposite side of the River Nile from Karnak, Egypt. Viewers are then taken inside the wrappings of the mummy and are also able to see Nesperennub’s facial features completely reconstructed to give an accurate visual image of the priest. The image then morphs into a human actor and a historical reconstruction of how Nesperennub would have lived is dramatized.

Audiences are then able to witness the ancient Egyptian rituals of preserving the dead 3,000 years ago, including graphic details on how Nesperennub was mummified. The experience delves into incredible details such as where incisions were made to remove organs, and makes visible amulets of carved stone ceramic and wax found on his body-all without needing to physically remove a single piece of the cartonnage case. Forensic pathologists have also contributed to the 20 minute-experience, detailing health problems Nesperennub suffered and considering how he may have died. British actor Sir Ian McKellen, famed actor of The Lord of the Rings films, narrates the entire show.

The Exploreum will leverage its own 100-seat SGI Reality Center facility with an interactive walkthrough of Nefertari’s tomb created by Infobyte srl, an Italian provider of immersive multimedia systems. Last year, the Exploreum hosted an interactive walkthrough of the Temple Mount as part of a Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit.

When the exhibition reaches Mobile, the Gulf Coast Exploreum will be the only museum in the world with two SGI Reality Center facilities. Since first introducing the SGI Reality Center concept in 1994, the company has installed nearly 700 such centers worldwide.

“SGI is delighted to partner with the British Museum on their world tour using SGI Reality Center technology” said Afshad Mistri, advanced visualization market manager, SGI. “With SGI Reality Center theaters, this exhibit is able to seize the audience’s imagination with interactive, immersive, high-quality visualization and story-telling.”

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SGI, also known as Silicon Graphics, Inc. (OTC: SGID), is a leader in high-performance computing. SGI helps customers solve their computing challenges, whether it’s sharing images to aid in brain surgery, finding oil more efficiently, studying global climate, providing technologies for homeland security and defense, enabling the transition from analog to digital broadcasting, or helping enterprises manage large data. With offices worldwide, the company is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., and can be found on the Web at

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