Liverpool’s World Museum is readying itself to open the doors of its new Ancient Egypt: A journey through time gallery later this month (28 April), revealing one of the UK’s most significant collections of ancient Egyptian and Nubian antiquities.
The gallery has trebled in size to create the biggest ever display area for its ancient Egypt collection. At 1,000 square metres, it is the UK’s largest ancient Egypt gallery outside of the British Museum.
The new, enhanced gallery will see around 1,000 key objects displayed including many items that have never been on public display before such as a recently identified statue part of Nefertiti and two mummy masks, including one with a magnificent representation of the vulture goddess Nekhbet, her wings outstretched and patterned. Also new on display will be Djed-hor’s Book of the Dead and a brightly painted coffin belonging to a man named Haty from 8th century BC Thebes. The coffin comes from the collection of Sir Robert Mond of Wigan, an industrial chemist whose chief hobby was Egyptian archaeology.
Also new on display, and displayed for the first time, is a reassembled Predynastic burial (3200 BC), discovered in the desert sand in 1906 by John Garstang of the University of Liverpool. This better reflects how approximately 90% of people relied on sand to bring decomposition to a halt, as mummification was a skilled and time-consuming process which most could not afford.
The larger gallery also gives space to redisplay objects that were damaged in 1941 when World Museum was bombed in the Blitz. A number of objects will be on display for the first time in 76 years, after the Second World War, including several mummies and artefacts from the royal city of Meroe in northern Sudan, borrowed by the Louvre Museum in 2010 for an exhibition about ancient Egypt’s southern neighbours, the Kushites.
The extended gallery will also see the reopening of World Museum’s Mummy Room for the first time in 150 years. With a total of ten mummies on display, this is the UK’s largest display of mummies outside of the British Museum, and double the number of mummies on display at the Museum previously.
The atmospheric Mummy Room will house nine mummies, four of which are being displayed for the first time after the Museum Blitz of 1941 - a female temple musician called Ankh-es-en-aset; a woman called Ta-enty who was buried in her bedsheets; a teenage woman whose name remains unknown to us, and a priest from Abydos called Hor-wen-nefer.
There will be an additional mummy in the main gallery, the mummy of Nesmin, who served as a priest in the temple of the male fertility god Min 2,300 years ago. Recent CT scans revealed Nesmin died from a fall. The mummy and coffins were previously owned by Sir Rider Haggard, author of King Solomon’s Mines.
Steve Judd, Director of World Museum, said:
“Our mummy collection is world-renowned and has always proved to be incredibly popular with visitors of all ages.
“Until now, space restrictions have limited us from showing the full scope of our collections. By expanding the gallery, we look forward to wowing visitors with never-before seen objects displayed in new and exciting ways.”
World Museum’s ancient Egypt collection has been amassed over more than 150 years. The gallery will take visitors on a journey spanning 5,000 years of history from the time of the first settlers in the Nile Valley through to the impact of the Roman Empire. The collections are presented in seven themes: 5,000 Years; Collection Highlights; River Nile; People of Egypt; African Kingdoms; Afterlife; and the Mummy Room. Visitors will find out about Liverpool’s long connection to excavations in Egypt and Sudan, and how thousands of artefacts made their way into the Museum.
In Victorian times Liverpool’s Egyptian collection was the largest after the British Museum and was displayed in the main hall of the Museum. In the May Blitz of 1941, more than 3,000 Egyptian objects were destroyed when the Museum was hit by an incendiary bomb. The collection increased in size over the following 40 years, with 10,000 new acquisitions. The dedicated gallery that opened in 1976 was modest, with just two mummies on display, and improvements to the gallery in 2008 allowed a further three mummies to be brought out of storage.
The Ancient Egypt gallery has been funded through the generous support of DCMS/ Wolfson Museums & Galleries Improvement Fund, the Garfield Weston Foundation, The Headley Trust and the Molly Tomlinson Bequests. The exhibition has been made possible as a result of the Government Indemnity Scheme, arranged by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Arts Council England.
As well as the gallery, visitors can delve deeper into this fascinating civilisation by attending the accompanying programme of events including talks, performances and hands-on activities for all the family to enjoy. Teachers can educate and inspire students by attending our specially-devised ancient Egypt education sessions for schools: www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/schoolsegypt
World Museum also has a brand new Shop and Cafe open daily, which has been transformed into a stunning new space that’s also available to hire for corporate and private events. Visitors can explore a huge selection of unique toys and gifts in the shop, and enjoy freshly-made food in the Cafe from the in-house team of chefs. All profits are returned to National Museums Liverpool to support its work.
For more information see: www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ancientegypt
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About World Museum
From the sea to the stars, a visit to World Museum reveals millions of years of the Earth’s history through thousands of exhibits and hands on activities. Find out how humans have created the world we inhabit, from Africa to the Americas, Asia and Europe. The Museum houses our Ancient Egypt gallery (containing a collection that is amongst the finest in Europe) that is currently undergoing an exciting refurbishment. You can discover the wonders of the natural world in the Clore Natural History Centre, packed full of mounted and preserved specimens of all types of animals, as well as rocks, minerals, fossils and plants (see website for Centre opening times). The Aquarium is home to fish from Australia to Anglesey, while an array of creepy crawlies live in the Bug House. Then, blast off on a spectacular journey through space and time as the universe unfolds around you in the Planetarium. Open daily, 10am-5pm. Free entry. www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/wml
World Museum’s Ancient Egypt collection
Liverpool has been a leading centre for the study of ancient Egypt for over a century. Students from Egypt and around the world come to study Egyptology, and Egyptologists from the University of Liverpool continue to make new discoveries. The city’s collection is one of the most important in Britain.
The story of Liverpool's Egyptology collection starts with goldsmith Joseph Mayer opening his Egyptian Museum in 1852. Mayer purchased his collection from Joseph Sams, Rev. Henry Stobart and Viscount Valentia, with many objects sharing the same early 19th century provenance as those now in the British Museum and the Louvre. In 1867 he donated his collection to 'The Liverpool Free Library and Museum' (now World Museum) which at the time positioned the Museum as the most important public collection outside London. As a port city supplying the Lancashire mills with cotton from Egypt, it was easy to bring Egyptian artefacts into Liverpool.
From 1884, the Museum began enhancing Mayer’s founding collection by supporting fieldwork projects of the Egypt Exploration Society and Flinders Petrie’s British School of Archaeology in Egypt. With the agreement of the Egyptian authorities, newly discovered antiquities were allowed to be exported to museums that sponsored the excavation. By this arrangement, 4,000 items were acquired between 1884 and 1939, in particular from the excavations of John Garstang who, in 1904, established the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Liverpool – the first of its kind in the UK. Garstang was one of the most prolific and peripatetic excavators of his day. His richest finds were in Egypt and Sudan, where he conducted the first systematic explorations of the site of Meroe, the inspiration for Verdi’s opera Aida.
The Ancient Egypt gallery has been funded through the generous support of:
• DCMS/ Wolfson Museums & Galleries Improvement Fund
• The Garfield Weston Foundation
• The Headley Trust
• The Molly Tomlinson Bequests
The exhibition has been made possible as a result of the Government Indemnity Scheme, arranged by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Arts Council England.
About National Museums Liverpool
National Museums Liverpool comprises eight venues, including some of the most visited museums in England outside of London. Our collections are among the most important and varied in Europe and contain everything from Impressionist paintings and rare beetles to a lifejacket from the Titanic. We attract around 3 million visitors every year. Our venues are the Museum of Liverpool, World Museum, the Walker Art Gallery, Merseyside Maritime Museum, International Slavery Museum, Border Force National Museum, Sudley House and the Lady Lever Art Gallery. www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk