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How This Gala Hosted Dinner Inside King Tut's Tomb

The California Science Center’s 20th-anniversary gala used projection mapping, themed catering, 1920s-style decor, and a live camel to trace the discovery of the Egyptian tomb.

By Claire Hoffman April 10, 2018, 7:00 AM EDT

For the seated dinner, the museum’s Samuel Oschin Pavilion was transformed to resemble King Tut’s royal tomb. Video mapping from Bart Kresa Design masked the space shuttle Endeavour, turning it into the dining room’s focal point.

Photo: Nadine Froger Photography

California Science Center 20th Anniversary Discovery Ball
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Known as one of the city’s top benefits of the year, the California Science Center’s annual Discovery Ball typically centers its theme and decor around its newest exhibit. The record-breaking 20th-anniversary event, held on March 23 at the museum, was no exception, immersing guests in the glittering discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922.

The museum’s event services department, helmed by vice president of food and event services Christina Sion, headed up the production fund-raiser, which drew nearly 1,000 guests and featured the premiere of the new exhibit, “King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh.”

“Our design choices for this year’s gala were heavily influenced by the imagery and artifacts of this gorgeous exhibition, as well as the life and legend of the famous 'boy king,'” Sion said.

The entire evening was designed to transport guests back in time: The dress code called for “Roaring ’20s” attire, and projected news footage, era-appropriate music, and costumed actors furthered the theme.

The night kicked off with a cocktail reception set in 1921, when archaeologist Howard Carter and his British sponsor, Lord Carnarvon, were searching for the tomb. Actors in vignettes represented Carter’s crew, searching for the grave in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. Other on-theme highlights from the cocktail party included stations where guests could have their names written in hieroglyphics, as well as a British tea party in honor of Lord Carnarvon to entertain guests waiting in line to see the exhibit.

Later in the evening, dinner took place within the Samuel Oschin Pavilion, which famously features the space shuttle Endeavour. The pavilion was transformed to resemble the inside of the royal tomb.

“In order to create the appropriate decor and ambiance of King Tut’s burial chamber, we had the unique challenge of integrating the large artifact which resides in the dinner location—the space shuttle Endeavour—into the theme,” said Sion. “Through the amazing imagination and talent of Bart Kresa Design, an image of King Tut’s jewel enrobed sarcophagus was video mapped on the Endeavour as the central decor of the dining room.”

Additional projections on the walls were actual artwork found in the tomb. “Since we employed video mapping as opposed to still imagery, torches projected along the walls animated throughout the evening and the color palette changed from warmer royal tones of gold, lapis, and carnelian at the beginning of the evening to cooler shades of blues and purples with a sparkling effect—which I dubbed ‘Disco Tut’—for the dessert service,” explained Sion.

Kensington Caterers prepared a dinner menu inspired by Egyptian flavor profiles. Courses included pea soup with poached shrimp and minted yogurt tzatziki; braised lamb shank with sumac, tomatoes, root vegetables, and garlic herb dust; and roasted eggplant salad with cumin-scented turnip, legumes, and zhoug olive oil.

The evening ended with a Great Gatsby-inspired after-party, in honor of the year 1922 when Tut’s tomb was discovered. Dancers from Lucent Dossier wore flapper attire and greeted guests with flapper headbands, strands of pearls and boas, chocolate cigars, and more.

While last year’s Discovery Ball was held in May, this year’s event was pushed up to coincide with the opening of the exhibit. “Weather was more of an issue for a March event, so we ended up pulling our arrivals decor—including a live camel—inside the first floor of our main Ahmanson Building,” Sion said.

The earlier event date did not affect fund-raising totals, however: The event set a new record, with gross revenue exceeding $1.6 million. Nearly $70,000 was raised from a raffle for a 2018 Lexus RX 450h Hybrid, and more than $175,000 was raised to send 900 children to science camp. 

Click through the slide show to see inside the immersive, King Tut-theme gala.

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