The Etruscans are moving to Provo - or more specifically, to the BYU Museum of Art.

On loan from the Vatican and most recently on display in Morristown, N.J., "The Etruscans: Legacy of a Lost Civilization," arrived Thursday at BYU."We're establishing a benchmark here," said James Mason, director of the museum and dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications.

The exhibit sets a precedent for the community and the museum in that only pieces "of high quality" will be exhibited in the museum, he added.

The 128-piece exhibit will serve as a blockbuster-type opening for the BYU Museum of Art, the largest art museum between Denver and San Francisco. The museum was built from private donations ranging from $5 to several million dollars.

The exhibit is on a four-city tour of the United States, with Provo being the last stop, Mason said.

In addition to stopping in Morristown and Provo, the exhibit has been displayed in Dallas and Memphis, Tenn.

The artifacts, many of which have never left the Vatican prior to this tour, were shipped from New Jersey via climate-controlled truck, said Pierre Chenue, part-owner of the French company moving the exhibit.

The company, Andre Chenue & Fils, is considered the premier moving company for fine art in the world.

Andre Poulain and Remy Gosset, movers with Andre Chenue & Fils, said they will work with the exhibit until approximately Sept. 25.

Their expertise is in ensuring that the centuries-old artifacts are not damaged. Watching them unlock crates, remove padding and foam, all in white gloves, gives a hint of the importance of their work.

So far there have been no problems, Poulain said.

The two will work eight to 12 hours a day until everything has been set up properly for the exhibit, Poulain said. Unpacking began Friday and should be finished Tuesday.

Once unpacked, the artifacts are examined by Maurizio Sannibale and Cristina DeNubilo, conservators from the Vatican.

Donning white gloves and using magnifying glasses, the two scrutinize each historic piece to verify that everything is accurate. If necessary, they restore damaged pieces to their original state, Sannibale said.

The artifacts are important because they are the main source of records on the Etruscans, said John Hall, chairman of BYU's department of humanities, classics and comparative literature.

Etruria is an ancient country occupying the western coasts of modern-day Italy, north of Rome.

Roman civilization was based on the Etruscans, Hall said. "To have a show like this come here is just a marvelous event."

The Etruscans comprised a cultured civilization that flourished before being conquered and absorbed by the Romans several hundred years before Christ.

The atrium space of the museum will contain a full-size replica of the front of an Etruscan temple surrounded by trees.

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The Etruscans

Tickets for "The Etruscans: Legacy of a Lost Civilization" are $6.50 for adults, $3 for children ages 3-11 and $5 for senior citizens, students and individuals in groups of 20 or more.

The exhibit runs from Oct. 18 to April 30, 1994. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Marriott Center ticket office by calling 378-BYU1.

The museum is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and is closed Sundays and holidays.