Liverpool’s World Museum is set to open its new Ancient Egypt: A journey through time gallery on 28 April, revealing one of the UK’s most significant collections of Ancient Egyptian and Nubian antiquities.
The Museum will expand into gallery space unused for 35 years, to create the biggest ever display area for its ancient Egypt collection. At 1,000 square metres, it will be the UK’s largest Ancient Egypt gallery outside of the British Museum.
The extended gallery will 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 will be the UK’s largest display of mummies outside of the British Museum.
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: 5000 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.
World Museum’s ancient Egypt collection has been amassed over more than 150 years. 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 Djed-hor’s Book of the Dead - a four metre-long intact roll of papyrus dating from about 332 BC –displayed in full for the first time since its discovery in 1905. Other items that will be on display to the public for the first time include a recently identified statue part of Nefertiti and a mummified head decorated with a mask of more than 3,000 beads still in place after 2,600 years.
The larger gallery gives space to display objects damaged in 1941 when Liverpool was bombed in the Second World War. Following extensive conservation by the Museum’s dedicated team, a number of these items will be displayed for the first time in 76 years, including four mummies and their coffins, as well as artefacts from the royal city of Meroe in northern Sudan which were borrowed by the Louvre Museum in 2010 for an exhibition about ancient Egypt’s southern neighbours, the Kushites.
The atmospheric Mummy Room will have nine mummies on display – with an additional mummy on display in the main gallery space - four of which have not been on display since the Museum closed following the 1941 bomb damage.
A reassembled Predynastic burial (3500 BC), discovered in the desert sand in 1906 by John Garstang of the University of Liverpool, will also be on display for the first time. This better reflects how about 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.
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.”
The ten mummies in the new gallery will include four women, including a temple musician, a Nubian lady buried in her bedsheets, and two women in their late teenage years who were mummified in a very strange way; the embalmers skillfully wrapped the legs, fingers and toes individually but left the hair and scalp exposed. They also include five men and a five year old boy.
Two of the males are called Padiamun who both lived during the 7th century BC and worked in the greatest temple of the land – the Temple of Amun at Karnak. One was a temple doorkeeper and the other was a sailor of the barque of Amun – a ceremonial ship that would carry the sacred image of the god Amun in river festivals.
Hor-wen-nefer was a ‘royal relative’ who lived at a time when Egypt was under 300 years of Macedonian Greek rule which ended with Cleopatra VII (‘the’ Cleopatra). His coffin with a gilded face was described in 1839 as being one of the finest and best preserved of the kind in existence.
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
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, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Headley Trust and the Molly Tomlinson Bequests.
For more information see: www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ancientegypt
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
• Garfield Weston Foundation
• The Headley Trust
• The Molly Tomlinson Bequests
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