Many of World Museum’s most important objects were presented in 1867 by one of its founding donors, the Liverpool goldsmith Joseph Mayer (1803-1886). Before his donation Mayer had opened his own museum in Colquitt Street in 1852 and one of its most impressive rooms was devoted to Ancient Egypt. The Rameses girdle was one of many remarkable objects in his collection later given to the museum.
The girdle was discovered in Thebes and collected by the Reverend Henry Stobart on his tour of Egypt during the winter of 1854-55. The girdle owes its name to an inscription naming King Rameses III with the date of the second year of his reign. After its donation this belt, made from a rare surviving piece of woven linen, caused a great deal of interest in the 1920s and 1930s. Experts tried to recreate the belt, so they could understand how it was made and how long it would have taken to weave something so long.
With the outbreak of the Second World War the girdle was packed in a cardboard box and taken to St Martin’s Bank where it stayed in the vaults until after the war. The decision to move the girdle to the bank vaults would save its life. On the 3 May 1941, the museum’s Director Douglas Allen recorded that, “…the most serious losses, including much Pacific ethnographical material, the planked and ribbed scale models of fishing craft, the key pieces of the old Liverpool Pottery collection, the Anglo Saxon bronze bowls and some Egyptian antiquities.”
The Blitz cost the Egyptology department a third of its Joseph Mayer Collection.