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  • 100 Years of the Petrie Museum

    By Debbie J Challis, on 9 June 2015

    Petrie Pocket diary

    Flinders Petrie’s ‘Pocket Diary’ entry for 7 June 1915. Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology Archives.

    On  7 June 1915 the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology opened its doors at UCL for the first time. On the day Petrie wrote in his pocket diary ‘exhibitions of whole collection finally arranged’. There was plenty else going on in the world, not least in London and Egypt. (more…)

    The Edwards Museum

    By Alice E Stevenson, on 4 March 2015

    The Petrie Museum takes its name from famed archaeologist Flinders Petrie. It’s all too easy, therefore, to fall into the habit of always celebrating him – all  ‘Petrie this’ and ‘Petrie that’ – as if he somehow toiled alone, a heroic pioneer. The fact is, he built his career with the support and labour of others. ‘His’ Museum would not be here at all were it not for Amelia Blanford Edwards (1831–1892). So on International Women’s Day this year we celebrate our true founder .

    This Girl Can. Plaster bust of Amelia Edwards in the entrance to the Petrie Museum

    This Girl Can. Plaster cast bust of Amelia Edwards in the entrance to the Petrie Museum


    The Mystery of the Norwood Petrie Portrait

    By Debbie J Challis, on 9 April 2014

    Last year I went to view two paintings at the Harris Academy, South Norwood: one is of the inventor and philanthropist William Ford Robinson Stanley and the other is of the archaeologist William Matthew Flinders Petrie.  Stanley is the original founder of the Harris Academy (formerly known as the Stanley Technical College) and the Stanley Halls next door. I am a trustee of the charity The Stanley Peoples’ Initiative


    A portrait of Flinders Petrie? (close up)

    which is taking the Stanley Halls into community management. Obviously I work at the Petrie Museum and so was intrigued and somewhat bewildered to have two portraits of people closely connected to organisations I am involved in and care about on my doorstep.


    Petrie in Britain: The Stonehenge years

    By Edmund Connolly, on 14 January 2014

    Flinders Petrie is most famous for his extensive work in Egypt, but one of his first archaeological projects was far closer to home and took place in Wiltshire. England plays host to many iconic heritage institutions and monuments, but perhaps the most recognisable is a ring of stones that have beguiled archaeologists, historians and tourists for millennia.
    Petrie's Stonehenge survey

    Petrie’s Stonehenge survey


    So long fair thee well, pip pip cheerio, We’ll be back soon…

    By Edmund Connolly, on 20 December 2013

    Following the wise Dickensian ( /Lionel Bart) sentiment this will be the final blog post from the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology for 2013 and we will be closed until March 2014 to have a fulgurating new light system installed. Despite the museum being closed, the collection is still active. We have a plethora of events and activities going on across campus and Camden, with further details here that will be leading towards a large summer celebration, something to look forward to after the excitement of Christmas.

    We can also be followed online via twitter: @PetrieMuseEgypt and on our shiny new facebook page: Excavating Objects: Behind the scenes at the Petrie Museum or, if pictures are more your thing follow our instagram where we have a host of images of objects and events that show what a vibrant and diverse museum we are: @Petriemuseum

    A small summary of our year:

    VP Michael Worton presenting Ramdane Kamal with his graduation certificate, September 2013

    VP Michael Worton presenting Ramdane Kamal with his graduation certificate, September 2013


    From the Field to the Museum and Back Again

    By Edmund Connolly, on 1 November 2013

    by guest blogger: Alice Stevenson
    What are the chances? Two teams of archaeologists separated by a more than century stumbling across small fragments of the same object while working across a wide expanse of desert? Quite high as it happens.

    At the turn of the 19th century Flinders Petrie’s teams were trawling through the debris of the tombs of the first rulers of Egypt at a site called Abydos.

    Reconstruction of First Dynasty royal tomb of Den at Abydos, February 2013

    Reconstruction of First Dynasty royal tomb of Den at Abydos, February 2013


    The Legend of Petrie’s Head: An Artist’s Response

    By Debbie J Challis, on 16 October 2013

    10 terracotta heads

    ‘Heads of Colour’: Petrie 2013 by Michal BarOr

    Shortly after blogging my response to the ‘legends’ around the head of archaeologist Flinders Petrie, artist Michal BarOr has used these legends, the head itself and Petrie’s ideas about measuring heads , skulls and faces for race ategorising in a work for the display New Sensations.  New Sensations is part of Frieze Art Week and on display in Victoria House on Bloomsbury Square until tomorrow. (more…)

    The Legend of Petrie’s Head: A Personal Response

    By Debbie J Challis, on 9 October 2013

    In a recent article for the journal Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, Sara Perry and I explored the myths around the fact that the head of archaeologist William Matthew Flinders Petrie (1853-1942) is a specimen in the collections of the Royal College of Surgeons. We tried to understand the context in which Petrie donated his head to science – his eugenic ideas, his focus on the face, his pedagogical collecting and curation practices – and along the way confronted many of the legends hatboxthat have grown up around Petrie’s head. One of the most famous, that Hilda Petrie brought back her husband’s head in a hat box from Jerusalem after World War Two, was repeated in the recent BBC4 television documentary The Man Who Discovered Egypt. In fact, letters in the Petrie Museum archive illustrate that that ‘romantic’ legend is just not true (romantic arguably as it has some parallels with wives such as Mary Shelley retaining their loved one’s body parts).

    Second only to the legends about how it got to England are the stories about who has seen Petrie’s head, many of which are true, some of which we chronicled in the article. Petrie’s head became a talking point for archaeologists in ‘the know’ until the publication of Margaret Drower’s 1985 biography which explicitly states where Petrie’s head is. I have not seen Petrie’s head and have no desire to do so while it is locked away in its current state (fully fleshed) in a cupboard. Personally I feel that to gain access just for the sake of seeing the head and saying that I have seen it would be merely titillating and serve no real educational or research purpose for myself or anyone else. (more…)

    Making time for Predynastic Egypt

    By Debbie J Challis, on 5 September 2013

    Predynastic pottery in gallery of Petrie Museum

    Predynastic pottery in gallery of Petrie Museum

    Written by Alice Stevenson

    Flinders Petrie was good with numbers. He liked nothing better than to measure, calculate and plan. These were the skills that allowed Petrie in 1899 to create the first detailed timeline for the period just before the First Dynasty of Egypt.

    He did this by comparing assemblages of hundreds of Predynastic pottery vessels unearthed by his teams in prehistoric cemeteries of Upper Egypt. Many of these beautiful pots are on display in the Petrie Museum. The Petrie Museum also holds in its archives his Sequence Dating slips, each of which records the different types of pottery that were found in individual tombs. (more…)

    Flinders Petrie: An Adventure in Transcription

    By Rachael Sparks, on 3 September 2013

    What could be nicer than to spend your day off measuring things with a stick?

    What could be nicer than to spend your day off measuring things with a stick?

    Flinders Petrie began his autobiography by warning that “The affairs of a private person are seldom pertinent to the interests of others” [1]Fortunately for both us and his publisher this proved no impediment, and Petrie went on to write about himself, his thoughts and his life’s work at great length.

    Petrie was a prolific writer, both in the public and private arena, and we are not short of material to help us learn about his life. But not everything he wrote was wordy. I’d like to introduce you today to a more unexpected side of his penmanship: his personal appointment diaries. (more…)