The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Cheryl Morgan on October 30, 2000

Halloween might be the time for people to pretend to be witches, but San José is home to some real magicians. Well, mystics anyway. The Rosicrucian Order, AMORC, is a not-so-secret secret society that has been around at least since the Middle Ages, and probably a lot longer if you believe some of the wilder claims. The Order's members include famous scientists such as Newton, Faraday and Descartes. Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were also members, which might help explain that funny eye and pyramid thing on the back of a dollar bill, depending, of course, on which particular conspiracy theories you subscribe to.

In any case, the Rosicrucians appear to have found the USA a more congenial home than Europe and in 1927 they moved their world headquarters to San José. The Order now owns a substantial amount of land in the city and has erected some unusual buildings. One of these houses a museum devoted to ancient Egypt and is open to the public.

Having lived and worked in London for many years and consequently been able to spend a lot of time in the British Museum, I had to work very hard not to find the museum disappointing. Ancient artefacts are hard to come by, and not having had the benefit of a mighty empire to assist in plundering material from around the globe, the Rosicrucians are at something of a disadvantage here. Having said that, they have tried hard. There is some good stuff there, including a particularly impressive mummy of a baboon. They have also included reproductions of a number of impressive pieces of sculpture.

In any case, the value of a museum should be judged, not on the rarity of its collection, but on how well it educates its visitors. I must admit that I had been a little worried that the Rosicrucians might take a mystical rather than a scientific interpretation of Egyptian life. However, if they did so it was low-key and subtle. The museum comes across as scholarly and informative, not as the work of New Age cranks. A museum brochure proudly notes that over 40,000 children a year participate in their educational programme.

To sum up, if you really want to see ancient artefacts, go to London (or perhaps Berlin which has a good reputation but I haven't had the pleasure of visiting). On the other hand, if you are in the Bay Area and want to see something completely different that has nothing to do with computers, the Rosicrucian Museum would make a good break. If nothing else you can wander round their grounds and look at their beautiful buildings.

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum & Planetarium
1660 Park Avenue
San Jose, California, 95191
(408) 947-3635

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