British Museum blog

When the Pharaohs came to town


Victoria Page, Great North Museum: Hancock

When thousands of years of Egyptian history came hundreds of miles from the British Museum to the Great North Museum: Hancock in Newcastle, it wasn’t just the artefacts that needed extra care; I nearly burst with excitement when the crates were popped open.

A statue of Ramesses II on display in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Photo: Great North Museum: Hancock

A statue of Ramesses II on display in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Photo: Great North Museum: Hancock

My role throughout Pharaoh: King of Egypt has been that of publicity, marketing, events management, print production, social media and any other ad hoc duties that arise. Being a provincial museum employee has its advantages! The regional broadcast and press have been regular advocates, as has BBC History magazine.

As the resident lay person among many highly specialist professionals from both museums – Egyptologists, conservators, curators, designers, learning officers, marketing and public relations experts, builders, and administrators – I had the luxury of prowling around the curatorial team as they put the exhibition together. I got so close to the two-metre tall tomb guardian statue from the tomb of Ramesses I that I could smell the wood and bitumen on him. It gave me goose pimples: he’s over 3,000 years old.

The Great North Museum has a strong family audience; generations of north easterners have enjoyed visits to this museum, and I myself used to come to see the mummies as a child. Pharaoh: King of Egypt has been a delight for the people of this region; so far, over 120,000 people have visited the museum since opening on 16 July.

Two participants at a mask-making workshop. Photo: Great North Museum: Hancock

Two participants at a mask-making workshop. Photo: Great North Museum: Hancock

Our learning teams have welcomed 2,000 children to their exciting and innovative free events programme to celebrate Pharaoh, which included historical re-enactment, Egyptian jewellery crafting, making Egyptian masks, and learning about mummification.

The ‘make your own mummy’ session was a particular favourite with a flurry of social media activity generated by a Facebook competition about which was the best mummy. We had over 400 children come to make masks one day too – our learning officer Stephen had his hands full.

Thinking about the entire exhibition process, the word that springs to mind is illumination; I have learnt so much, from playing witness to the talents of my Great North Museum colleagues (and feeling mighty proud of them too), to having the professional support from the staff of one of the best museums in the world.

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The Museum looks spectacular with a blue sky overhead – especially in this great shot by @whatrajwants. You can see the beautiful gold flashes shining in the sun. This triangular area above the columns is called a ‘pediment’, and was a common feature in ancient Greek architecture. The copying of classical designs was fashionable during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and was known as the Greek Revival. The sculptures in the pediment were designed in 1847 by Sir Richard Westmacott and installed in 1851. The pediment originally had a bright blue background, with the statues painted white. #regram #repost #architecture #neoclassical #sculpture #gold #BritishMuseum Concluding our short series of gold objects from the Museum’s collection is this group of items found in the Fishpool hoard. The hoard was buried in Nottinghamshire sometime during the War of the Roses (1455–1485), and contains some outstanding pieces of jewellery. 1,237 objects were found in this hoard in total. At the time it was deposited, its value would have been around £400, which is around £300,000 in today’s money! The variety of this collection of objects includes brilliant examples of fine craftsmanship. The turquoise ring in the centre was highly valued as it was believed that turquoise would protect the wearer from poisoning, drowning or falling off a horse.
#hoard #gold #jewellery #turquoise #treasure Continuing our exploration of the golden objects in the Museum, this amazing inlaid plaque is from 15th-century China. Lined with semi-precious stones, this piece would have formed part of a pair sewn into a robe. We can tell this belonged to an emperor of the Ming dynasty because only he would have been allowed to use items decorated with five-clawed dragons.
#Ming #gold #jewellery #China #BritishMuseum Our next trio of objects shows off some of the shimmering gold in the Museum’s collection. This stunning piece of jewellery comes from Egypt and was made around 600 BC. It was worn across the chest – this type of accessory is known as a ‘pectoral’. Popular throughout ancient Egypt, pectorals have been found from as early as 2600 BC. This example is made from gold and is inlaid with glass, showcasing the incredible level of craftsmanship in Egypt at the time, and asserting the status of the wearer. Falcons were important symbols in ancient Egypt – the god Horus took the form of a falcon.
#AncientEgypt #gold #jewellery #BritishMuseum In 1991, BMW invited South African artist Esther Mahlangu to make a work of art in their Art Car project to mark the end of apartheid. Her work, with its brightly coloured geometric shapes, draws on the traditional house-painting designs of Ndebele people in South Africa. Under apartheid the Ndebele were forced to live in ethnically defined rural reserves – their designs are an expression of cultural identity, and can be read as a form of protest against racial segregation and marginalisation.

See this incredible Art Car as part of our #SouthAfricanArt exhibition, which opens 27 October 2016. You can book your tickets now by following the link in our bio.

Esther Mahlangu (b. 1935), detail of BMW Art Car 12, 1991. © Esther Mahlangu. Photo © BMW Group Archives.
#SouthAfrica #history #art #design Mapungubwe was the capital of the first kingdom in southern Africa from AD 1220 to 1290. This gold rhinoceros, alongside four other gold sculptures, was discovered in three royal graves there. They are among the most significant sculptures in Africa today. They depict animals of high status – an ox, a wild cat, and a rhinoceros – and also objects associated with power – a sceptre and a bowl or crown. These treasures were discovered alongside hundreds of gold objects, including bracelets and beads. Gold was mined in the regions around Mapungubwe for trade with the coast, as part of an international trade network stretching as far as China, becoming a status symbol for the kingdom’s rulers.

On loan from the University of Pretoria @upmuseums, these gold treasures will be a highlight of our #SouthAfricanArt exhibition, opening 27 October 2016. Find out more about the exhibition by following the link in our bio.
#SouthAfrica #rhino #art #history
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