The Michael C. Carlos Museum: Atlanta's Hidden Gem of a Museum

The Michael C. Carlos Museum is devoted to the collection and study of art and artifacts from antiquity to the present, although they are best known for their antiquities. Located on the northeast side of Atlanta on the Emory University campus, the museum is near the Carter Center, the Fernbank Museum of Natural History and many of Atlanta's lovely and historical residential neighborhoods. The museum is about ten minutes from both the Interstate 75/85 Downtown Connector and Interstate 285.

The collection at the Carlos has its roots in the artifacts collected by Emory University since 1876, when the museum was known as the Emory College Museum and, later, the Emory University Museum. The collection was stored over the years in various locations around campus. Beginning in the 1980s, Atlanta businessman Michael C. Carlos began donating money to the university to make a permanent home for the museum. In 1993, an expansion turned the museum into one of Atlanta's top museum destinations. It was renamed for its major benefactor that year.

The collection now contains over 18,000 items, including some of the finest antiquities in the country. Art & Antiques says, "The Carlos is known as an institution with a reputation for quality and for connoisseurship.'' The New Georgia Encyclopedia believes that "the Carlos Museum is emerging as the South's premier museum of ancient art.'' A 2005 renovation and expansion by the building's original architect, Michael Graves, made room for the museum's expanding collection of Greek and Roman art, which has attracted international attention for its superb quality. Other collections of the Carlos include:

Egyptian, Nubian and Near Eastern Art. One of the most popular parts of the collection, this area contains items from the Nile valley from prehistoric times through the Roman era. The oldest Egyptian mummy in the Americas is here.

Ancient American Art. Comprising more than 2,300 pieces, this collection includes art from the Maya, Aztec and Inca civilizations.

African Art. This collection, primarily from the 19th and early 20th centuries, emphasizes art from West and Central Africa, although the East and Southern Africa collections are growing.

Asian Art. The Asian Art collection features religious objects from South Asia, particularly India.

Works on Paper. This collection contains over 4,000 prints, drawings and photographs from the Renaissance to the modern era of photography.

The museum frequently stages special exhibitions from its collections. It also hosts traveling exhibitions, such as the recent "Tutankhamen: The Golden King and the Great Pharoahs.''

The Carlos places a great emphasis on education. They produce programs, both on campus and through outreach. Adult programs include lecture and music series, while family programs feature art workshops, storytelling and special concerts for children. The Carlos welcomes school groups, but the "Mummy Mobile'' will travel to you if you can't come to them. Teacher workshops help educators take lessons back to the classroom, and the museum has a growing online education program.

Reviews on Internet travel websites of the Carlos Museum are glowing. Frommer's calls it "intriguing;'' others say "small but impressive,'' "worth searching out,'' and "among the best in the world.'' Among the few negative comments are complaints about the lack of parking on the Emory campus and the fact that the museum is small. Many visitors comment positively on the price, a suggested seven-dollar donation, and the fact that it is "not that crowded even on weekends, except for when they have certain special exhibits.'' The museum is a hidden gem among Atlanta's headline attractions.

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