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What remains to talk about? Human bodies on display

Alice EStevenson24 July 2014

I’ve recently returned from holiday in Cascais, near Lisbon in Portugal, which was for the most part a fairly relaxing break. For the most part. There was the small matter of a rather lengthy complaint furiously scribbled into a comments book at one particular museum we visited and my husband being subjected to an in-depth critique of ethical museum display practice – for several hours. So what got me so agitated? The display of three mummies: two Peruvian and one Egyptian in the Museu Aqueológico do Carmo, Lisbon.

All blue skies?

All blue skies? Outside the Museu Aqueológico do Carmo, Lisbon.

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A gem of an idea

RachaelSparks26 February 2014

Dramatically bearded gentleman shows off his classical headgear

Dramatically bearded gentleman shows off his classical headgear.

Every collection has its nooks and crannies, and it’s rare for curators to know the full scope of their domain. So every now and again we’ll take a quiet moment to sneak into our stores and explore that neglected corner or unfamiliar drawer, just to see what might be lurking.

Late last year I was looking for some material for my new conservation volunteers to work on. I’d begun training them in the mysteries of plastazote cutting – that’s making snug little foam housing to hold objects safe – and I wanted some simple starter objects. You know the sort of thing: nice and flat on the underside, so there’s no tricky shaping of the mount to match the curve of the object, and not so fragile that the students get disheartened by accidentally breaking something. We’d already done a batch of cylinder seal impressions (straight rectangular lines, flat as a tack – lovely). But now I wanted to try them on something new.

So I started to explore the stores in search of inspiration. Here’s what I found: (more…)

From the Field to the Museum and Back Again

EdmundConnolly1 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

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The great zombie apocalypse

RachaelSparks8 October 2013

Curatorial dilemma no 1: how to defend against zombie attack

Curatorial dilemma no 1: how to defend against zombie attack

On September 18th, UCL Museums and Collections participated in a worldwide event on Twitter: Ask a Curator day.  The plan was to have a handful of curators on call to deal with questions as they flooded in from a curious public. The reality was that we didn’t have many queries sent directly to our feed, so we went out into the Twittersphere to seek out interesting questions to answer. As Keeper of the Institute of Archaeology Collections, I spent an hour manning the virtual desk, and found it an interesting experience. (more…)

Flinders Petrie: An Adventure in Transcription

RachaelSparks3 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…)

Riding on the crest of a ware

RachaelSparks6 August 2013

Felixstowe Crested WareI’m quite partial to memorabilia, and I have a passionate interest in the life and work of Flinders Petrie, not just because he’s a an impressively beardy archaeologist and legend, but also because for some years now I’ve been responsible for looking after his collection of Palestinian antiquities at the UCL Institute of Archaeology Collections. So I was quite chuffed when I did a search on Ebay a few years ago, and came across this inspiring item. (more…)

Working [in museums] Wednesdays #3

EdmundConnolly5 June 2013

Tunnelling into museums (not literally!)

When it comes to job hunting I am intensely jealous of people like Flinders Petrie, who was pretty much handed the Chair of Egyptian Archaeology at the bequest of Amelia Edwards in 1892[1] . Whilst some of this does still happen in the Museum world, indeed any employment pool, it can be as difficult finding a vacancy in a museum at it is finding an andron in a Greek house[2].

Online

There are some useful website for sourcing heritage and museum jobs. Naturally one can go direct to an institution (such as the BM or Tate), but bear in mind museums that are part of institutions, eg. the Petrie, employ via the same HR routes as their host (UCL). In other words, if one wants to apply for a job at the Petrie, the application will be on the UCL job website[3]. However, for in-house volunteering schemes (as blogged in #2)  you generally apply directly to the museum as they are more bespoke.

There are some websites which collate museum jobs in general, the standard Guardian Jobs is very useful as there is a ‘Arts and heritage’ group within which there is a ‘Museums’ sectioning. Slightly annoyingly though, this is separate from the Heritage and Library posts which are often also of interest, just make sure you tick both when searching.

 

The snazzy museum jobs website, copyright www.museumjobs.com

The snazzy museum jobs website, copyright www.museumjobs.com

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The mysteries of the Egyptian hairstyles

EdmundConnolly3 June 2013

Collection Correspondent: Monika Zgoda

Please note this post contains images of human remains.

The allure of the Ancient Egypt, scented with the air of mystery has been enchanting generations, and while more and more of its secrets are now being discovered, it seems some of its riddles are still waiting to be solved. One of such is right here at Petrie, and although sadly it is not the Sphinx (we wish!), its beauty and whimsical charm are of equal quality.
While the use of make up and cosmetics in the Ancient Egypt has been widely covered, and we are now familiar with the various aspects of it – from the religious and spiritual connotations to its more  practical uses – there is still some mystery regarding the cosmetic equipment used.

UC71153, Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

UC71153, Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

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The Archaeology of Race

EdmundConnolly1 April 2013

guest blogger: Chris Webb

 

In recent history there are few contentious subjects that are as notorious as eugenics. There are not many areas of discussion that can illicit such heated debate. Indeed, even the simple task of blogging becomes a semantic minefield, my inclusion of the word ‘contentious’ above, inferring (erroneously) that there are two sides to ‘argue’. However, research into the concept of eugenics, its founding and articulation, is the focus of a new book by Dr Debbie Challis who asks ‘How much was archaeology founded on prejudice?’

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Spring Invocation 1: Birds

EdmundConnolly28 March 2013

Given that we are enduring a slightly tepid spring, I figured it’d be nice to pretend we are in the middle of the whirl of new life, joy and bouncing lambs that spring promises to bring. In this series of 5 blogs I am going to attempt to dust the cobwebs off my English degree[1] and evoke sounds, smells, tastes, touch and sights of what spring should be, mixed with an Ancient Egyptian garnish, just because, right now, the thought of 25+ degrees is the only thing keeping me from embracing this eternal winter and bunkering down to a Game of Thrones type existence.

 

Chaffinch, courtesy of: www.rspb.org.uk

Chaffinch, courtesy of: www.rspb.org.uk

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