Secret Egypt: Part 1
Hi this is Chris Kirby, and welcome to the Secret Egypt blog. This is the first of a series of posts in the build up to our exciting new exhibition on ancient Egypt which will open in February 2011. This project began as an idea over six months ago to create a new kind of exhibition around the well trodden subject of ancient Egypt. The Herbert itself has a very small collection of Egyptian objects so to create our exhibition we wanted to bring in loans from some of the finest collections of Egyptian objects in UK. In total, over 200 objects make up the proposed show. These are being brought together through the generosity of Birmingham Museum, the British Museum, the Ashmolean, Manchester University Museum and Bolton Museum. Each of these museums had collections of special interest: for Birmingham it is the intriguing group of objects which make up the Wellcome collection as well as the previously unviewed stone fragments from the Amarna excavations of the 1930s; for the Ashmolean and the British Museum it is their stunning art treasures which span the Middle Kingdom to the Greco-Roman Period; for Manchester University Museum, its significant collection of mummies and related funerary equipment and finally Bolton, its particularly important collection of ancient textiles and mummified animals.
Why did we want to bring an ancient Egypt exhibition to Coventry? Well, although I am now a senior manager overseeing the collections and programmes at the Herbert Museum, for many years I worked as a field archaeologist in Egypt excavating at sites such as Memphis, Amarna and Luxor. Six years on my passion for ancient Egypt remains as well as a desire to share this fantastic subject with the public. My colleague on the project, Ali Wells, who is one of the Herbert Museum’s Keepers of Collections, also has a background in Egyptology and recently helped to set up Bristol Museum’s very successful ancient Egypt gallery.
With Secret Egypt, Ali and I wanted to create an exhibition that looked at the popular subject of ancient Egypt in an unusual way. At the same time we wanted to offer the people of Coventry and visitors to the city a show that celebrated the wonderful aspects of this ancient civilisation. The approach we adopted was to explore the way ancient Egypt is portrayed in modern media such as films and books and question some of the popular ideas that they conveyed. We wanted to question, for example, the ideas around the ancient Egyptians apparent obsession with death and the popular idea of the mummy’s curse. We then wanted to use real ancient Egyptian objects to reveal a truer version of ancient Egypt that had previously appeared ‘hidden’ from a mainstream audience. Over the next few weeks Ali and I will be sharing with you some of stages of work we are going through to make Secret Egypt a reality. We look forward to sharing the secrets of our museum work with you!