The Italian Almanac

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The Nile in Turin

A virtual recreation of the River Nile will soon greet visitors arriving at Turin's world-renowned Egyptian Museum as part of a sweeping makeover. The virtual waters will flow alongside the escalator leading up to the museum, thanks to the technical wizardry of Oscar-winning set designer Dante Ferretti.

''Visitors will immediately get the feeling they are travelling up the Nile, before entering the new museum complex,'' said the head of the Egyptian Museum Foundation, Alain Elkann. The virtual river is just one of the projects included in the 50-million-euro overhaul of the museum, which houses more ancient Egyptian antiquities than anywhere else in the world bar Cairo. The entire layout of the museum's exhibition space will be restructured and reorganized, increasing the available space from 6,000 to 10,000m2.

This means the museum's most valuable possessions, such as the Tomb of Kha, will be displayed in more fitting, specialized areas, said Museum Director Eleni Vassilika. ''Numerous and priceless papyri will also get a special space, which will not only allow them to be admired in optimal conditions but will also make their value and individual nature immediately obvious,'' she said. ''The Book of the Dead, the oldest ever written evidence of a strike, the Erotic Papyrus and history's first map are among these''.

The expansion will also provide room for hundreds more artefacts that are currently in storage. Of the museum's 26,000 pieces, just 6,500 are actually on public display. In addition, the overhaul will involve the creation of a bookshop, a gift-shop, a cafe and educational rooms.

The first phase of the project will get under way in September 2009 and conclude in January 2011 as Italy begins its celebrations of 150 years of unity, centring on Turin as the country's first capital. This will be followed by a second phase due for completion in 2013.