Khaznat al-Faroun at Petra, Jordan. Photo taken by Calvin College professor Bert DeVries

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Return to the PETRA homepage April 4, 2005 - August 15, 2005
Lost City of Stone

News: August 24, 2005

Petra Attendance Tops 63,000

The final numbers are in for the Petra: Lost City of Stone exhibition at Calvin College, which concluded August 15.

Visitors waiting outside the Prince Conference Center.
Visitors line the sidewalk for a final chance to experience Petra.

Over the 19-week, 115-day run of the exhibition a total of 63,808 tickets were sold for the show. That includes tickets purchased just for the exhibition as well as exhibition tickets purchased as part of special events such as the Taste of the Mediterranean and Mezze and Music events, the Family Festival and the Petra Grande Finale.

The final number just tops the 62,203 people who saw Petra during its 20-week run at the Cincinnati Art Museum from September 14, 2004 to January 30, 2005.

Petra Steering Committee members say they are thrilled by the final number, but even more thrilled by the response of people who saw the exhibition.

"By just the final attendance number we can consider Petra a marvelous success," says June Hamersma, co-chair of the Petra Steering Committee. "But more important than simply the final number is the way the people who attended felt about the exhibition. Our visitor surveys showed that people were overwhelmingly positive about the experience. We said all along that Petra was Calvin's gift to the community. To have that gift received and appreciated is very gratifying to all of us at Calvin who worked so hard on the project."

Souzan Karadsheh, Hospitality Project Director, and Joel Zwart, Director of Exhibitions
Over a year of planning concludes for Calvin's Souzan Karadsheh, Hospitality Project Director, and Joel Zwart, Director of Exhibitions.

Calvin's Joel Zwart, the on-site curator for Petra, says that Cincinnati's attendance figure was a solid benchmark for Calvin when the exhibition began.

"I'm pleased that we were able to match Cincinnati," says Zwart, director of exhibitions for Calvin. "They are an established museum with a built-in visitor base. We're a college who took a chance on hosting an exhibition. We also are in a smaller market than Cincinnati and they had the advantage of being open on Sundays, which is a big museum day. I'm proud that we were able to draw the numbers we did and really pleased at the way Petra was received. This exhibition was a big success."

Petra was pushed over the top by its final week in Grand Rapids which was a busy one. In the last seven days of the exhibition a total of 7,953 tickets were purchased for Petra: Lost City of Stone. That included a single-day record 2,224 people who were on Calvin's campus on August 13 for the Petra Grande Finale!

Among the 60,000-plus people who bought tickets to Petra over the four months of the exhibition were some 12,000 folks whose entry was pre-paid. Students and teachers from about 160 schools throughout Michigan took advantage of the chance to take their students to Petra for free.

The offer began in mid-April when two donors who had seen and been wowed by the exhibition pledged money to allow school children to see Petra for free. As soon as the offer was announced the phones at the Prince Conference Center started ringing.

Dig Petra was a popular activity with school children of all ages.
Dig Petra was a popular activity with school children of all ages.

Two months later a total of 5,500 public school students, 3,400 private school students and 1,400 homeschool students had seen Petra for free — a total of 10,300 students. Those students were accompanied by almost 1,700 adults for a total of 12,000 visitors!

"Both the donors were amazed by the Petra exhibition when they say (saw) it," says Henry DeVries, a vice president at Calvin and a member of the Petra Steering Committee. "Their goal was to get as many students as possible through the exhibition by the end of the school year. They felt very strongly that this was an opportunity that should be denied to no student because of cost. So, for us to report to them that over 10,000 students saw Petra because of their generosity was a very pleasant task. They are thrilled that things worked out the way they did."

Petra: Lost City of Stone at Calvin featured over 200 exceptional objects, including stone sculptures and reliefs, ceramics, metalwork, architectural elements, terracotta or ancient water pipes, artworks in various media and other fascinating artifacts. All are on loan from collections in Jordan and throughout Europe and the United States. Many were on display in the United States for the first time.

Petra, 10 years in the planning, is now being packed up and readied for a trip to Canada. It will be on display at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary from October 29, 2005 to February 20, 2006 and then will travel to Ottawa, Ontario, to the Canadian Museum of Civilization for an April 10 to September 3, 2006 run.

After that its elements will be returned to their permanent homes in the U.S. and Jordan.

Waves of sand