A Delray Beach businessman is behind the largest assemblage of human mummies ever exhibited to the public.
Marcus Corwin, whom we profile in-depth in the October-November issue of Delray Beach magazine, is still celebrating the success of “Mummies of the World,” which runs for another month in Tampa Bay’s Museum of Science and Industry, the show’s exclusive Florida engagement. More than 5,000 people attended the exhibit’s opening weekend in April, and similar numbers have been reported across the previous four stops of “Mummies of the World” (the exhibition continues in Texas beginning Sept. 29).
“I was never a strong museumgoer, per se,” Corwin told me in an interview earlier this year for Delray Beach magazine. “I truly have been very blessed in that I’ve been self-employed my whole life, and I never knew at any point in time where I would end up in terms of what I would do.”
Corwin has already lived more lives than a cat, having worked as a concert promoter, a lawyer – where he represented celebrities like Cal Ripken, Jr. and Oprah Winfrey – a boxing promoter and a prosecutor of cable-TV theft before he found his way in the exhibition business. The development of a successful human-anatomy exhibition called “Our Body: The Universe Within” led to his role in bringing the mummy exhibit to the masses.
Hearing the backstory behind the mummies may be as interesting as seeing them. In 2004, German researchers discovered 20 human mummies, along with other precious artifacts, in an underground vault. Considered lost amid the destruction of World War II, the mummies dated back to a museum purchase from 1917. The scientists delved further into their discovery, using DNA analysis, computer tomography, magnetic resonance imaging and radiocarbon dating, all without unwrapping or damaging the mummies.
The results included a child mummy carbon-dated to 3,000 years before the birth of King Tut, an entire mummy family, a 17thcentury German nobleman said to have perished in the Thirty Years’ War, and a number of Egyptian animal mummies.
Understanding the cultural importance and, let’s face it, the sound business strategy of bringing these artifacts to Americans, Corwin contacted the German museum that held the rights to the mummies. “And we asked if they would be interested in allowing us a three-year loan of the objects to bring it to the United States,” Corwin recalls. “They and I came to an agreement and put together the largest exhibition ever assembled of real human and animal mummies from all over the world.
“I had to retain designers and fabricators to build the exhibit, marketing and PR agencies, branding to develop logos and merchandise, and convince science centers to take a chance on this exhibit,” Corwin continues. “We announced, in 2008, a seven-city tour. We opened July 1, 2010, in Los Angeles, and did 100,000 people in the first 50 days, the largest advance ever in the history of the science center.”
The buzz surrounding “Mummies of the World” has been overwhelming. The exhibit made the front page of the New York Times arts section – even though the exhibition never opened in New York. Celebrities such as Seth Green, Virginia Madsen, Edward James Olmos and Alex Trebek have been among its visitors.
“Mummies of the World” closes Sept. 9 at MOSI, 4801 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa. It’s a bummer that Corwin couldn’t secure a South Florida engagement for the show, but if you’re planning a weekend in the Tampa/Saint Petersburg area over the next month, you won’t want to miss it – and don’t forget to pick up the Oct-Nov issue of Delray Beach for more on Corwin.