It seemed no coincidence that the sun shone bright on the day that we moved our statues of the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet, daughter of sun god Ra, from World Museum’s atrium to their new home in our Ancient Egypt: A journey through time gallery.
The sculptures were acquired by Joseph Mayer in 1852 and donated to World Museum in 1867 where they were put proudly on display in the museum’s main hall. There, they stoically guarded the entrance of the Museum’s galleries until the Second World War began. Most of the objects evacuated from the museum during the Blitz were carried out by hand, but due to the size and weight of the Sekhmets, although rare and special to the collection, they proved impossible to move. As the Blitz began, the statues remained in place at the entrance to the staircase, but had to be surrounded by sandbags.
The Sekhmets proudly guarding the entrance to the new mummy room. © Pete Carr
Against all odds, the statues endured the worst of the Blitz bombings. They survived the fire that ravaged World Museum but they were sadly broke into several pieces. It was not until 1995 that the two goddess statues were repaired by museum conservators, ready for their redisplay when the museum reopened in 2005. Since then the statues of the goddess have stood flanking the entry of the main staircase in World Museum, welcoming guests into the galleries. Now, with the reopening of the new Ancient Egypt gallery, it was time to rightfully display the goddess statues amongst the rest of our Ancient Egypt collection in order to tell their story.
Weighing over 3 tonnes collectively, it took efforts of epic proportions to relocate the statues. A team of more than 10 were involved in the 24 hour operation which involved taking the Sekhmets on a journey outside of the museum using lifts, hoists, harnesses and all sorts of contraptions to get them into place. The statues now proudly stand guarding the entrance to the gallery’s Mummy Room ahead of its opening on Friday 28 April. Visit our Ancient Egypt: A journey through time webpage to find out more about what you can expect to find in the new gallery
You can watch the full journey of the statues in our timelapse video below: