The pandemic didn’t prevent the Reading Public Museum from hosting their eighth annual “Night at the Museum” on September 26.
The unveiling of two new exhibits–over 70 original works by Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha, and a hologram mummy experience–ensured that the night was a resounding success. Attendees arrived dressed in 1920’s attire, and danced the night away to live music provided by Cooky Mann and Cliff Starkey.
The evening also featured cuisine catered by Special Events by Panevino, signature cocktails from Manatawny Still Works, desserts from Sweet Street, and many donated auction items from various local businesses.
Director and CEO John Smith is proud of how well the new exhibits, particularly the captivating hologram experience, came together this year. He shared that much of the work happened during quarantine, and that the unveiling of the hologram was always slated to take place during “Night at the Museum” this year.
The hologram features Philadelphia actress Nichelle Nichols in the role of the Egyptian priestess Nefrina, the mummy that has resided at the Reading Museum for nearly a century. Adjacent to a display featuring Nefrina’s actual mummy, the hologram of Nefrina (Nichols) appears every few minutes to share her life story with visitors.
Nichols was chosen to portray Nefrina after the remarkable resemblance of her headshot to a 3D bust of the real Nefrina (created by artist Frank Bender in 2003) was noticed. She worked closely with costume designer Kate Willman, who herself worked with an Egyptologist, to ensure that her costume, wig, and adornments were as faithful as possible to what the real Nefrina would have worn in life.
The process to create both the hologram itself and the unique setting in which the hologram appears was a collaborative effort involving the Museum, local digital content firm Neo-Pangea (which counts Disney among their clients), and construction company Burkey Construction, all Berks County-based businesses.
Neo-Pangea Founder and Creative Director Brett Bagenstose shared that the hologram experience is unlike anything local museums have to offer, and that they also worked with an Egyptologist to make sure details were accurate. Josh Didden of Burkey Construction also shared that the exhibit was built using a frame of ¼” plywood stripping that was covered in MBF material, which was then painted and textured to look like ancient stone.
Actress Nichols summed up the ambience of the evening when asked to comment on what it felt like to be part of such an historic experience. “I’m overwhelmed with the wonderfulness,” she said. “It’s surreal.”