Exhibitions on Egypt 2015: What to see this year.

Cairo to Constantinople: Early Photographs of the Middle East
The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace
7th November 2014 – 22nd February 2015
Tickets: £0.00 – £9.75
#royaltour1862

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, Cairo to Constantinople provides a fascinating insight into Victorian Britain’s relationship with the region and archaeology as an emerging discipline. The exhibition also has some excellent online content featuring a selection of photographs, documents and stories from the archive.

Ancient Lives: New Discoveries
The British Museum
22nd May 2014 – 19th April 2015
Tickets: £0.00 – £10.00
#8mummies

This exhibition tells the story of eight people from the ancient Nile Valley, covering 4,000 years from Prehistoric Egypt to Christian Sudan. Using the human remains as a starting point Ancient Lives introduces new technology and interactive displays to explore how these people lived and died. The ancient lived experience is at the heart of this exhibition and Ancient Lives presents a ground-breaking and sensitive approach to the study of human remains.

Ancient Lives: New Discoveries has proved extremely popular with British Museum visitors. Last year it received an unprecedented six month extension, taking it through to April 2015, and it is still very much in demand. If you get a chance check out the accompanying book, it’s a great addition to the exhibition.

Secret Egypt: Unravelling Truth from Mystery
Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery
24th January – 26th April 2015
Tickets: £0.00 – £4.00

Secret Egypt aims to challenge modern myths and misconceptions surrounding ancient Egypt by exploring subjects like the mummy’s curse, and answering questions such as ‘were the ancient Egyptians obsessed with death?’. This exhibition provides an interesting and eclectic mix of Egyptian archaeology and modern Egyptomania, and includes a diverse collection of 150 ancient Egyptian artefacts ranging from jewellery and ceramics to statuary and coffins.

The Secret Egypt exhibition, which has been touring UK museums since 2011, has been produced by Birmingham Museums Trust in partnership with the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum and is supported by Arts Council England. To find out more about UK tour dates and to download the Herbert Touring pack visit the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum website.

Ancient Egypt Lives Forever
Museum of St. Albans
24th January – 17th May 2015
Free entry

This exhibition offers an insight into the daily lives and funerary practices of the ancient Egyptians, covering a wide range of themes from home-life, work-life, religion and recreation. Ancient Egypt Lives Forever includes a selection of artefacts on loan from collections across the UK, such as Manchester, Liverpool, Brighton, Hertford, Ipswich and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. With an extensive programme of talks for adults and activity-led sessions for children this exhibition has something for visitors of all ages.

Egypt Explored
The Egypt Exploration Society
12th – 26th July 2015
Free entry

Founded in 1882 the Egypt Exploration Society in London houses one of the largest and most significant Egyptian archaeological archive collections in the UK. Egypt Explored will provide a unique opportunity to learn more about the history of the Society and its work in Egypt through the exploration of this world renowned collection. Find out more about the archaeologists behind the discoveries and experience what life was like on excavation when the Society opens its doors to the public in July this year.

Egypt Explored, and accompanying events, is organised as part of the UK-wide Festival of Archaeology which takes place between 11th and 26th July 2015. Further details will be announced nearer the time, so keep an eye on the Egypt Exploration Society website.

Gifts for the Gods: Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt
Manchester Museum
September 2015 – March 2016
Free entry

This much anticipated exhibition will tell the story of ancient Egypt’s mummified animals, placing this particular votive offering practice within its social, cultural and religious context. According to the Museum’s press release, Gifts for the Gods will also provide a more recent historical perspective by looking at the history of their excavation, collection and interpretation. This exhibition will present an exciting collaboration between Manchester Museum and the Ancient Egyptian Animal Bio Bank Project that will explore the scientific study of these specimens.

There is not very much information out about this exhibition yet so keep checking the Museum’s website for further details. I would also recommend following the Egypt at the Manchester Museum and Ancient Egyptian Animal Bio Bank blogs for possible exhibition updates and behind-the-scenes posts.

Do you know of any other exhibitions on Egypt happening in the UK this year? If so, I would love to hear about them! You can either reply to this post or send me an email at museumegyptology {at} gmail {dot} com.

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Interpreting Egyptian Art, The British Museum.

At the end of June Alaistair Sooke, writer and presenter of BBC4’s recent documentary series Treasures of Ancient Egypt, was at the British Museum to discuss how we present and interpret ancient Egyptian art on television and in museums. He was joined in conversation by Marcel Marée, a curator from the Museum’s Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, who shares a similar interest in the history of art. The event provided an opportunity to compare and contrast two quite different approaches to interpretation, not just in terms of the media used but in the disciplinary perspectives they present. While Treasures of Ancient Egypt was keen to promote a more art historical and aesthetically-led approach, museum displays are often guided by a more traditional egyptological and archaeological viewpoint.

For Marcel Marée this topic holds particular relevance as the department is currently in the middle of a project to refresh the interpretation of the Museum’s famous Egyptian sculpture gallery, the results of which are due around November 2014. The mention of a potential temporary exhibition at the Museum in 2017/18 on how to interpret ancient Egyptian art also demonstrates that it is a topic gaining far wider appeal.

The event took the form of an entertaining and engaging conversation between the two speakers structured around some of the key themes, periods and pieces from ancient Egyptian art. This structure allowed us to consider both ancient and modern interpretations of the same pieces whilst demonstrating the development of ancient Egyptian art over time. Both speakers are keen, through their respective media, to dispel the myth that ancient Egyptian art was static and uncreative, a perception often reinforced in the media and more traditional museum displays, and want to encourage people to overcome this long-held prejudice that exists in comparison to other classical cultures.

Marcel Marée reminded the audience that, although the ancient Egyptians had no word for art, evidence shows there was certainly a great appreciation for beauty in both objects and architecture. By approaching ancient Egyptian objects as works of art and viewing them aesthetically, rather than solely from an archaeological perspective, we can breathe new life into some objects, engaging new audiences and encouraging important cross-disciplinary interpretations.

For our speakers this aesthetic approach provides a very logical and meaningful way of interpreting ancient Egypt to the public. It is clear that many of us are initially drawn to ancient Egypt through an appreciation of their visual culture and this approach would allow us to engage more with that underlying attraction. Similarly, an aesthetic approach emphasises a universal and shared commonality and is therefore a form of interpretation that can be appreciated and understood by everyone on many different levels.

It was really interesting to hear the similarities that exist between the roles of the museum curator and the television writer/presenter. Not only do they share similar responsibilities in selecting, editing and curating stories to be presented to the public, but both find themselves restricted in the stories they can tell by the availability of material culture and the preservation bias in the archaeological record. Notably, both speakers emphasised the importance of moving away from purely recounting facts to encouraging people to question evidence and former interpretations. This event highlighted how, as means of presenting and interpreting an ancient culture to the public, the media and the museum share many similarities and have much to offer each other in terms of experimenting with interpretation styles and reaching new audiences.

It was great to attend an event that truly encourages us to question and think more about how and why we interpret and present ancient Egyptian artefacts the way we do. It was even greater to see this kind of discussion happening in the public arena. We can only hope that other museums follow suit – events like this could act as a forum for sharing ideas, providing an opportunity for museum visitors to feedback and potentially influence the way museums approach their interpretation.

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.
#DiscoverTut

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.

Boushra Almutawakel to Michael Rakowitz, the British Museum.

The British Museum.
The Islamic World Gallery (Room 34), Free Entry.
21st June – 2nd October 2013.

Boushra Almutawakel to Michael Rakowitz is a small temporary exhibition showcasing recent acquisitions of contemporary art by Arab artists from the Middle East. Displayed within the Islamic World gallery these works on paper are simultaneously juxtaposed with, and contextualised by, the Museum’s permanent display of artefacts exploring the history of Islamic faith, art, calligraphy, and science. All pieces within this exhibition draw upon issues concerning the Middle East today, providing a socio-political commentary, and artist’s perspective, on subjects such as conflict, cultural and religious identity, and the looting of ancient artefacts.

View of Boushra Almutawakel to Michael Rakowitz at the British Museum.

View of Boushra Almutawakel to Michael Rakowitz at the British Museum.

The exhibition features works by two Egyptian artists, Moataz Nasr and Fathi Hassan. In 2008 Nasr founded Darb 1718, a contemporary art and culture centre located in Old Cairo designed to develop the contemporary art movement in Egypt. Nasr’s work is represented by one of three pieces from his Insecure series (2006) which uses sun print techniques developed in the 19th century to explore the depths and complexities of human insecurity. The more politically hard-hitting approach of Egyptian-Sudanese artist Fathi Hassan is represented by five key pieces. These highlight central themes in Hassan’s work such as the exploration of the written and spoken word, colonial domination, and aspects of his Nubian heritage.

Michael Rakowitz display in exhibition.

Michael Rakowitz display in exhibition.

This exhibition demonstrates the value of displaying contemporary art with historic and archaeological objects, with these elements drawing from each other and acting as mutually beneficial interpretive tools. This exhibition style allows the visitor to be more actively involved with interpretation, while the diverse range of artists provides an important multi-vocal approach.

Having visited the exhibition a couple of months ago I was delighted to catch a talk last week on the new acquisitions by the Museum’s Curator of Islamic and Contemporary Middle East, Venetia Porter. The talk provided a guided tour of the exhibition, allowing the group to discuss each piece and its significance to the collection, and gave a brilliant insight into the department’s collections policy and the processes behind choosing new pieces for acquisition.

Venetia Porter, who is responsible for developing the department’s collection of modern and contemporary arts, stressed how important it is to look at political situations through the eyes of artists, and how Middle Eastern art should be considered fairly unique for its multi-layered political concepts and its ability to make you truly think. Interestingly, the talk also touched upon how so much of Middle Eastern art tends to resonate with the past and the exciting opportunity this presents in juxtaposing historical and contemporary pieces on display.

Over 250 artists from across the Middle East are represented in the department’s collection. While the department is restricted to collecting works on paper they often collaborate with other leading institutions, such as the Tate, to ensure other mediums are equally represented in other collections. As with all works on paper, these acquisitions have a limited display-life – roughly four to five months on display at a time. It was therefore great to hear the department’s aim to enhance virtual access by making new acquisitions available through the online catalogue as soon as possible after their arrival into the collection.

This exhibition originally formed part of London’s annual Shubbak Festival of contemporary Arab culture.

The Islamic World gallery at the British Museum.

The Islamic World gallery at the British Museum.