Statement on the Loss of Antiquities from Public Collections.

The Egypt Exploration Society and the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology have released a joint statement on ‘The Loss of Antiquities from Public Collections’. The statement condemns the forthcoming sale of objects excavated by Flinders Petrie at Harageh, Egypt, in 1914, which were distributed very deliberately to a “public collection”.

The statement, co-written by Dr Alice Stevenson and Dr Chris Naunton, relates to the intended sale of Egyptian antiquities by the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) St. Louis Society. The sale is due to take place at Bonhams, in London, this Thursday 2nd October 2014.

The statement can be found on the Egypt Exploration Society’s website, here, and is also available to download as a pdf, here.

A Fusion of Worlds, the Petrie Museum.

The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology.
11th March – 24th May 2014.
Free Entry.

A Fusion of Worlds.

A Fusion of Worlds.

The temporary exhibition A Fusion of Worlds: Ancient Egypt, African Art and Identity in Modernist Britain explores the influence of ancient Egypt upon the work of artists Mahmoud Mukhtar, Jacob Epstein, Edna Manley and Ronald Moody, proving that there is far more to the reception of ancient Egypt in early twentieth century Britain than the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. Focussing primarily on the interwar period, this multi-disciplinary exhibition explores the parallel worlds of the modernist art movement, contemporary archaeological thinking and the African diaspora, drawing upon the social, cultural and political landscape in which they were situated and the ancient Egyptian objects that linked them.

An interpretation panel from A Fusion of Worlds.

An interpretation panel from A Fusion of Worlds.

A Fusion of Worlds was inspired by the discovery of a letter from Flinders Petrie, published in the Manchester Guardian in 1929, in which he criticised the ‘primitive barbarism’ of a public sculpture by Jacob Epstein. From this initial discussion of Petrie’s views on the use of sculpture as a marker of civilisation and cultural achievement the exhibition introduces you to the vibrant world of the African-American Harlem Renaissance art movement in which ancient Egypt, alongside other cultural influences, was used to “re-create and re-frame modern black identities.” The exhibition incorporates a diverse range of themes, from the changing view of the ancient Egyptian object from artefact to artwork and the increasingly political nature of the ancient Egyptian image in popular culture, to the philosophical perspectives shared by the ancient and modern sculptor.

The exhibition consists of a series of interpretation panels positioned along the back wall of the main gallery, each exploring different exhibition themes and artist biographies, and a display case featuring a selection of archival material. This presentation style has allowed the Museum to display a greater depth of research than most other exhibitions and presents a level of detail that would make an excellent publication. In this shared space, interspersed amongst the cases in the gallery, the exhibition is contextualised by the permanent collection that surrounds it, allowing you to view and interpret the Museum’s objects from a new and exciting perspective.

Scrapbook style pin board showing images that inspired the exhibition.

Scrapbook style pin board showing images that inspired the exhibition.

This exhibition, co-curated by Debbie Challis (Petrie Museum) and Gemma Romain (UCL Geography, Equiano Centre), stands as another great example of inclusive exhibition practice from the Petrie Museum. Through public engagement workshops the Museum established a project team who were invited to contribute both ideas and text to the exhibition. Many of the interpretation panels include text written by members of the project team, describing visits to archives and museum collections, as well as their personal research and thoughts on particular artworks.

This approach has added an important sense of multi-vocality to the exhibition and it certainly feels richer for their input. I particularly enjoyed an interpretation panel entitled Form and Function: Petrie Museum Objects in which members of the project team picked out objects from the collection that appealed to them aesthetically and explored their similarities in style to the modernist art movement.

There are some brilliant additions to A Fusion of Worlds that allow you to actively engage with the exhibition and participate in some of the research behind its content. Scrapbook-style pin boards display some of the images and artworks explored by the project group and the presence of a comments board encourages visitors to share their thoughts and feedback with the Museum. There is also a table of books and a reading file of articles and newspaper cuttings linked to the exhibition for visitors to look through, and a short film, played on two tablets in the Museum, showing interviews with the curators and members of the project team about their experiences of working on the exhibition.

A view of the Petrie Museum and A Fusion of Worlds exhibition.

A view of the Petrie Museum and A Fusion of Worlds exhibition.

The Petrie Museum on Tour, London.

The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology will be closed in January and February 2014 to allow for the installation of new lights within the museum space. So, until the Museum reopens to the public on Tuesday 4th March, the Petrie team have come up with a series of ‘pop-up’ events across UCL campus and Camden. With walks, talks, and object-handling sessions, the Petrie Museum on tour looks to explore innovative topics in new contexts, linking the Petrie with other spaces and museum collections at UCL.

You can find a selection of pop-up events listed at the bottom of this post. For further details and to see the full events programme visit the Petrie website.

For those interested in conservation and collections management, the Petrie is providing some fascinating updates and behind-the-scenes photos of the conservation work currently underway. You can follow their progress on the Museum’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages, or find out more in their latest blog post.

Tuesday 21 January 1-2pm
An overview of the Egyptian Students who attended the Slade School of Art and modernist artists in Egypt and how the rise of Egyptian nationalism, artists such as Mahmoud Mohktar reflected, led to a change in the way antiquities were excavated by foreign archaeologists, including Petrie.
UCL Art Museum. Drop in.

29 January 6-7.30pm
Stones, their sources, and why some were valued over others, is an aspect of elite consumption of these materials that receives little attention. This seminar addresses issues of stone preferences during antiquity and crafting through an object handling session.
UCL Rock Room. Booking essential via

13 February 6-7.30pm
What do archaeologists owe to natural science? Explore Linnaean systems of classifying life forms and Flinders Petrie’s sequence of pots; then disrupt the patterns of knowledge with Foucault.
UCL Grant Museum of Zoology. Drop in.

Wednesday 19 February 6 – 8pm
In their installation in the Flaxman Gallery, artists Lynn Dennison and Gen Doy combine sound with video projection to create an immersive work which highlights themes explored by John Flaxman in his lectures and sculptures.
Flaxman Gallery, UCL Main Library, Wilkins Building. Drop in.

20 February 6-8pm
John J. Johnston chairs an event exploring how sexuality has been classified or not through ‘Sex and History’ Jennifer Grove (University of Exeter) and ‘Queer Time Capsules’ Tim Redfern / Timberlina .
G6 Lecture Theatre, Institute of Archaeology. Booking required via

26 February 2-4pm
We will start at the Carreras ‘Black Cat’ building with a discussion of the popular image of Egypt in the 1920s. Then we will take the tube and/or walk to Jacob Epstein’s public sculpture in out door spaces in London.
Booking required via

27 February 6-9pm
A screening of ‘Amphipolis Under Siege’ featuring Athena and her girlfriend Illainus from Season 5 of Xena: Warrior Princess and an episode from Spartacus: Vengeance that shows the relationship between Agron and ex-body slave Nasir.
Wilkins Portico / G22 Lecture Theatre Pearson Building.
Booking required via

Exhibitions on Egypt 2014: What to see this year.

Happy New Year! 2013 saw some excellent exhibitions on Egypt across the United Kingdom and, with a fair few announced already, this year promises to be just as exciting. Here is a selection of temporary exhibitions to look out for in 2014.

A Fusion of Worlds: Ancient Egypt, African Art and Identity in Modernist Britain.
Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London.
11th March – 24th May 2014.

This exhibition considers the influence of ancient Egypt and African art upon the work of modernist artists, including Jacob Epstein, Edna Manley and Ronald Moody, and explores the wider socio-political and cultural contexts in which their art is situated.

A Fusion of Worlds looks set to continue the Petrie Museum’s tradition of thought-provoking, cross-disciplinary exhibitions, with a focus on community involvement. Co-curated by Gemma Romain (UCL Geography) and Debbie Challis (UCL Museums and Collections), in partnership with a group of community participants, this exhibition will provide new insights into the reception of ancient Egypt as well as some interesting accompanying events, including a gallery talk with artist Edna Manley (15th March) and a ‘Meet the Curators’ talk (8th April).

Discovering Tutankhamun.

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
24th July – 26th October 2014.

The Ashmolean’s much-anticipated summer exhibition will tell the story behind the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb through a mix of archival and archaeological material, covering the search for the tomb, its excavation, documentation and reception.

Planned to coincide with the 75th anniversary of Oxford’s Griffith Institute of Egyptology, Discovering Tutankhamun will feature Howard Carter’s original records and photographs from the archive. According to the Griffith Institute’s blog this will be the first time they have been “presented as a whole to the public.” This exciting collaboration should provide a unique perspective on this iconic story in what will undoubtedly be a very popular exhibition.

Advanced booking now available.

Ancient Lives: New Encounters with Egypt and Sudan (title tbc).
British Museum, London.
22nd May – 30th November 2014.

Following the success of the British Museum’s recent interactive exhibit on Gebelein Man (November 2012 – March 2013), this exhibition will take a closer look at physical anthropology, highlighting the role of new technologies and scientific analysis in exploring the ancient lived experience.

This exhibition plans to tell the story of eight people who lived in ancient Egypt and Sudan between 3500BC and 1500AD, interpreting their life, death and mummification through a combination of archaeological artefacts, interactive exhibits and digital media. There is still very little information about this exhibition, and the title and dates may be subject to change, so don’t forget to keep an eye on their website in the next few months for further details.

Cairo to Constantinople: Early Photographs of the Middle East.
The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London.
31st October 2014 – 22nd February 2015.

Previously on display at the Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, in Edinburgh (March – July 2013), Cairo to Constantinople continues its tour of the UK royal collections with a trip to Buckingham Palace.

This exhibition documents the Prince of Wales’ (Edward VII) grand tour of the Middle East in 1862 through the eyes of photographer Francis Bedford. Exploring the Prince’s journey through Egypt, Palestine and the Holy Land, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Greece, it promises to provide a fascinating insight into Victorian Britain’s relationship with the region and place Egypt firmly within its Middle Eastern context. The exhibition also has some excellent online content featuring a selection of photographs, documents and stories from the archive.

Advanced booking now available.

Hidden Treasures at the Petrie Museum.

Last weekend I headed off into Bloomsbury for Hidden Treasures at the Petrie Museum, an event that gave visitors the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes and be shown some of the many objects not currently on display. Throughout the afternoon Curator Alice Stevenson and Public Programmer Debbie Challis led guided tours of their specialist collections, highlighting key pieces to reflect major themes for discussion. Each tour lasted 20 minutes, running regularly throughout the afternoon, and was followed by an opportunity to chat to the museum team and ask questions about the collection.

The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology houses an estimated 80,000 objects, and with only about 10% on display these events are a brilliant way for museums like the Petrie to share and make better use of stored collections.

Curator Alice Stevenson showing a slate palette to visitors.

Curator Alice Stevenson showing a slate palette to visitors.

Alice Stevenson’s Predynastic and Early Egypt tour included examples of slate palettes, mace heads and grave goods to represent aspects of everyday life, burial practice and the early use of materials. While Debbie Challis’ Ptolemaic and Roman tour showcased the museum’s collection of finds from the city of Memphis, including a series of terracotta heads, which allowed visitors to reflect upon cultural diversity and identity in the period. Both periods are well represented within the collection and have been the subject of recent research by both guides.

It was great to see two of the less iconic periods of Egyptian history sharing the focus of this event, showcasing material culture and comparing the lived experience from opposite ends of the ancient chronology. Hidden Treasures at the Petrie Museum also demonstrated the value and importance of object-centred events. Not only could visitors examine the objects in detail and experience them outside of the display case setting, something which people can often feel is a negative barrier to access, but also use them as a tool to directly engage with the latest theories and interpretations. For many museum visitors, myself included, this informal and accessible style of engagement is far more effective and conducive to learning.

Now in its second year Hidden Treasures is a national initiative, led by the Collections Trust, to promote and celebrate collections in museums and archives. This year saw over 70 museums and archives across the United Kingdom take part with special events allowing public access to a wide range of stored collections.