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First stages fo Egypt's new museum completed, including state-of-the-art conservation center

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's massive new museum for its famous antiquities now has a power plant, a fire station and its own conservation center, and over the next two years it will become home to some 100,000 artifacts, officials said Monday.

A partial opening for the 120-acre museum complex, which will house King Tutankhamun's famed mummy and golden burial effects and a replica of his tomb, is set for the fall of 2012.

Plans for the museum, which will replace the century-old building visited by millions annually in Cairo's heaving downtown, were first conceived in 2002 and it will display more than twice as many artifacts as its predecessor.

The museum will eventually house 100,000 artifacts, said Mohammed Ghoneim, the project's technical consultant said. Tens of thousands of artifacts are currently locked away unseen in the old museum due to lack of space to display them.

Egypt's first lady Suzanne Mubarak on Monday inaugurated the first two phases of the $600 million Grand Museum of Egypt, which is located at the foot of the Giza pyramids.

The main achievement so far is the construction of the new conservation center to restore damaged antiquities and already 122 conservators are restoring and preparing 6,800 artifacts that will one day be showcased in the Grand Museum.

A documentation unit is also working to create a computerized database for all the artifacts.

The conservation center is "designed to be the largest such center in the world, in terms of the services it offers and the number of laboratories," Ghoneim said. "It is built to restore Egyptian antiquities but also to be a regional conservation center."

Established with Japanese technical assistance, the center includes 12 laboratories for restoring, scanning and studying mummies as well as artifacts made from pottery, wood, textiles and glass. Staff are also receiving training in Japan.

Shadia Kinawi, the head of the committee overseeing the museum, said Japan has provided a $300 million loan for the museum, while the Egyptian culture ministry will provide $150 million.

Some $27 million were donated to the museum, she said. Over 30 firms have already submitted tenders for building the main galleries of the museum.