Sunday, 30 October 2011

Sacred and Profane at the Barber Institute

Yesterday I spent the day in Birmingham and finally got around to visiting the exhibition "Sacred and Profane: Treasures of Ancient Egypt from the Myers Collection, Eton College and the University of Birmingham" at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. The objects in the exhibition belonged to Major W. J. Myers, an alumnus of Eton College who amassed a fine collection of Egyptian antiquities during his time in Egypt during the 1880s. On his death in the Second Boer War in 1899 Myers' collection of antiquities, his libraries and his diaries were bequeathed to Eton College. This exhibition is a collaboration between Eton College, The University of Birmingham and Johns Hopkins University, and uses objects to illustrate key aspects of the religious life of the ancient Egyptians and the beliefs behind their burial and afterlife.

Detail of a wooden rowing boat (ECM 1550)
Though the exhibition is a little smaller than I had first anticipated, the space available had been effectively utilised and four large cases had been arranged to accommodate 80 objects, ranging from a gilded fragment from the 18th Dynasty coffin of the master builder Amenhotep from Thebes, to Old and Middle Kingdom tomb models, to decorative clay and faience vessels, and Hellenistic and Roman papyri and coins. For me the most interesting object in the exhibition was a wooden architectural cramp or dovetail inscribed with the name of Seti I and thought to have originated from his mortuary temple on the Theban west bank. This object would have been used to connect two blocks of stone in a building, perhaps while the mortar was drying. 

It was also interesting to see two of Myers' 34 notebooks on display, which contain details of his travels around the world. Unfortunately the two notebooks were left closed in the case, meaning that it is not possible to see Myers' handwriting and the details of his journeys. This decision may have been made to preserve the structural integrity of the notebooks as they are over 100 years old, though if it were possible for one or both of them to be opened at particular pages it would be interesting to catch a glimpse of Myers' original notes on Egypt, especially if those notes refer to any of the objects in the exhibition. 

The layout of each case was particularly striking; they were neither too cramped nor too empty, and the use of number labels next to each object, referring to a list of longer labels next to each case, meant that more information could be provided without cramping the interior of the case. The exhibition clearly caters to an older audience, which given the nature of the university-affiliated Barber Institute is understandable, however a children's trail has also been designed to accompany the exhibition meaning that younger visitors are still able to benefit from their visit.

I do recommend a visit to the exhibition if you are in the area, and to get the most out of your visit (as photography is not allowed in the Institute) I would suggest that you get hold of the accompanying exhibition catalogue to read beforehand if possible, or buy it on the day in the Museum shop, which contains a great deal of information on Myers the man and his Egyptian collection.
All images from

Ancient Egypt Magazine (Oct-Nov 2011)

This is just a quick reminder that the current Ancient Egypt Magazine contains an article on the Garstang Effective Collections Project, and the associated touring exhibition "From Egypt's Sands to Northern Hills: John Garstang's Excavations in Egypt", which is currently open at Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery. Definitely worth a read!

John Garstang in Blackburn

Last Saturday (October 22nd) saw the opening of the second leg of the touring exhibition "From Egypt's Sands to Northern Hills: John Garstang's Excavations in Egypt" at Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, after a successful first leg at Kendal Museum. The layout of the exhibition is subtly different to the first leg at Kendal, and so even if you did make it to Kendal it is definitely worth your while visiting the second leg in Blackburn to gain insight into Garstang's excavations and into the social history of Egyptian excavations during the early 20th Century. 

The exhibition will remain in Blackburn until March 16th 2012, when it will move on to Towneley Hall, Burnley where it is due to open on March 24th. Any feedback you have on the exhibition so far, whether in Kendal or Blackburn, would be very much appreciated.

View of the exhibition at Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery
(Photo: Claire Ollett).

Saturday, 1 October 2011

From Egypt's Sands to Northern Hills - Thank you Kendal!

That's it! The very last day of the first leg of the exhibition "From Egypt's Sands to Northern Hills: John Garstang's Excavations in Egypt". Kendal Museum did a fantastic job and it is with great pride that the exhibition has been well received by all who have visited so far.

The exhibition will now be packed up and transported to the venue of the second leg, Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, where it is due to be unveiled in a couple of weeks' time - so watch this space!
Yan Tan Tethera: A rhyme derived from a Brythonic Celtic language used by shepherds to keep sheep in many parts of England and Southern Scotland.

Until the Industrial Revolution, the use of traditional number systems was common among shepherds, especially in the Dales of the Lake District.

[This Blog is best viewed in Mozilla Firefox]

Total Pageviews