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Archive for the 'Museums and Collections' Category

Papyrus for the People – engaging the public through storytelling

NatashaDownes28 July 2017

pencil-iconWritten by Natasha Downes, Media Relations Manager, UCL

Divorce papers, tax documents, and a gentlemen that listed his days and whether they were good, bad or both – these are a few examples of the fascinating papyri that are on display at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, part of UCL Culture.

Detail from a Fragmentary papyrus scroll bearing on one side columns of cursive hieroglyphs and vignettes giving a selection of formulae from the Book of the Dead for a man named Tjaymesu or Paymesu (initial sign unclear).

Detail from a fragmentary papyrus scroll.

This week I attended a Papyrus Storytelling event held at the museum, where families and adults were invited to explore fragments of stories from ancient Egypt preserved on papyrus.

Helping to bring the stories of ancient Egypt to life, professional puppeteer Allison DeFrees from Puppet Story led a puppet making workshop for the kids, and parents, to delve deeper into the museums artefacts.

Popular amongst parents looking for something a bit different to do in the school holidays, one family explained that Egypt has become a kind of passion project after they visited the Swansea Egypt Centre.

The Petrie museum is located at the heart of the UCL campus and the artefacts on display, most of which were excavated by English Egyptologist Flinders Petrie, illustrate life in the Nile valley from prehistory through the time of the pharaohs, the Ptolemaic, Roman and Coptic periods to the Islamic period.

I was fortunate enough to have Louise Bascombe, curatorial assistant at the museum, who used to work at the Horniman Museum in South London, talk me through their collection. Some 80,000 objects in total, including over 500 papyri (a material similar to thick paper that was used in ancient Egypt as writing surface) and 1600 ostraca (historic fragments of pottery or small pieces of stone that have writing scratched into them).

What makes the Petrie special is the access that you get to wonderful experts and passionate Egyptologists that you wouldn’t often find at a larger museum. There were plenty of opportunities for the families involved in the workshop to ask questions about life in ancient Egypt.

The storytelling workshop forms part of a major push to improve understanding and accessibility of the Petrie collection. Supported by a grant from the Arts Council England, the collection of written texts are set to get the special attention they deserve, both in terms of preservation and how they are displayed. The project will also include an upgrade of its online catalogue, a searchable database with all 80,000 of its artefacts on it.

The Petrie may be small but it houses one of the largest collections of Egyptian and Sudanese artefacts anywhere in the world. For anyone interested in exploring ancient history and archaeology, the Petrie is definitely worth a visit.

 

Radically changing food habits with new undergraduate course

GuestBlogger10 June 2017

­Written by Francis Lecomber, student on UCL BASc2096

csfoodHow can we change our relationship to food? That’s been the central question for the new UCL Arts and Sciences BASc course “Citizen Science for Radical Change: Co-design, Art and Community” (BASC2096), which ran for the first-time last term. At a pop-up exhibition this week, selected students from the course showcased final projects exploring the factors that affect our decisions over what to eat.

The course brought together multiple disciplines to explore food, based on an open source interdisciplinary method developed by our lecturer Kat Austen for her project Vital. Incorporating elements of chemistry, citizen science, community co-design and philosophy, the course encouraged students to think both analytically and creatively in their approach to learning, whilst embracing the overarching theme of food as a unifier of different peoples. The learning process itself is studied throughout the course, as we were encouraged to investigate the many different forms of knowledge and the hierarchical structure in which they exist – a structure that often places quantified data far above sensory perception in terms of value. This overarching theme continuously shaped and changed our approach to knowledge acquisition.

Throughout the course, we worked with students from Newham’s NewVIc Sixth Form College, where we ran workshops and scientific experiments. At the end of the term, we co-designed exhibits and performances with the NewVIc pupils, which helped inform our personal designs for our final projects.

In these final projects, the diverse threads of the course are woven into a major design piece. These designs were exhibited here, at the UCL Art Museum, on Monday 5th June as a part of the university’s theme of Transformative Technologies. In their diversity, they capture the multiple meanings food has to us, and the effect of engaging with it in an interdisciplinary way.

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Reflecting on the IRDR Panel Discussion: Heritage and Disasters

GuestBlogger23 March 2016

pencil-icon Written by Dr Farnaz Arefian, Enterprise Manager, UCL Institute for Risk and Disasters ReductionIRDR panel discussion

The UCL Institute for Risk and Disasters Reduction (IRDR) successfully held its public panel discussion on Heritage and Disasters at UCL on 9 March, discussing cultural heritage protections and how to plan for and recover from disasters.

The attendees enjoyed an interactive and thought-provoking discussion with the panelists and a drinks reception, during which attendees could network and continue their informal discussions followed the discussion.

Five panelists from academia and practice engaged in a vibrant and lively discussion on how to protect cultural heritage from disasters such as earthquakes and conflicts and it was exciting to see attendees from across the heritage sector, including museums, heritage studies and NGOs, as well as attendees from practice.

The panel included William Brown, National Security Adviser, Arts Council England; Dr Sergio Olivero, Head of Energy and Security Research Area at the Istituto Superiore sui Sistemi Territoriali per l’Innovazione (SiTI), Italy; Dr Kalliopi Fouseki, lecturer and course director for the MSc Sustainable Heritage at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage (ISH); Jonathan N. Tubb, Keeper (Head), Middle East, the British Museum.

Dr Farnaz Arefian, Enterprise Manager at IRDR and Founder of ‘Silk Cities’ Platform, chaired the panel, opening the discussion by focusing on key cultural heritage preservation questions: Why the protection of cultural heritage is important and how we can protect and enhance its resilience to disasters? What are the complexities in practice? How existing academic discourse and research on heritage and disaster risk reduction can play role in heritage resilience? How the public and private sectors can be mobilized to proactively reduce disaster risk to our cultural heritage and enhance successful recovery and/or reconstruction when it is impacted? (more…)

The Great Grant Knit-a-Thon

SiobhanPipa5 June 2015

I’ve always wanted to learn how to knit. Unfortunately a lack of hand-eye coordination and a short attention span mean that it’s a skill I’ve never quite mastered. I also really like quirky museums. So naturally the Grant Knit-a-Thon, organised by the UCL Grant Museum of Zoology as part of this year’s UCL Festival of the Arts, seemed like the perfect event to me.

Knitted armadillo on display at Grant Museum  (C) Grant Museum

Knitted armadillo on display at Grant Museum
(C) Grant Museum

Teaming up with East London yarning collective, Prick Your Finger, the Grant Museum offered novices and experts alike a day of knitting, crocheting and stitching – all whilst giving us the chance to explore the museum’s current exhibition ‘Strange Creatures: The art of unknown animals’.

The knit-a-thon was inspired by one of the pieces currently on display in ‘Strange Creatures’ – Ruth Marshall’s knitted Tasmanian Tiger skin. The knitted pelt was chosen for inclusion in the exhibition by Sarah Wade (UCL History of Art), co-curator of ‘Strange Creatures’.

As part of the knit-a-thon activities, Sarah gave a fascinating talk on how natural history museums use contemporary art and craft to engage with visitors.

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