It is hard to believe we will be playing proud host to our group of 9 Fellows in just a few months’ time. Time has flown and our Fellows have been busy developing their Community Engagement projects using the case studies and skills that were showcased during the weeks spent in the UK at UCL and a group of host museums. Following on from our last post I will now profile out Egyptian Fellows: Sayed Ahmed and Mohamed M. Mokhtar, who both work at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC) in Cairo.
With the days lengthening and the bleak Beowulf-like nights withering we can start to revel in getting home from work in glorious sunshine (/grey illumination) and wend our commuter way with the street lights still off. Returning to my theme of spring (and Ancient Egypt), I’m now intrigued by the new affectation in the heavens: the sun!
Our sun is about 4.6 billion years old, comprising of 99.86% of the solar system’s mass. Probably the starkest visual image we can experience, the sun has inspired civilizations over millennia, and continues to affect our notion of time, season and even our emotions.
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?’
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 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.
Guest Blogger, Christopher Webb
On Tuesday the 26th February the Petrie Museum played host to a celebration of LGBT history month. The evening, ‘Every good thing’, saw Egyptologist John J Johnston in conversation, as he discussed items chosen from the Petrie’s collection of over 80,000 artefacts from ancient Egypt and Sudan, including figurines, mummy portraits and ceramic. Our special guests from the LGBT community carefully selected their personal choice of object and reflected on what it tells them about life, love and sexuality in the ancient world. The goal of the evening was to further our knowledge and insight into the LGBT experience in the ancient world.
Our first guest, comedian, writer and actor Tom Allen, chose a terracotta head of Alexander the Great, from Memphis. (more…)
guest blogger Andie Byrnes
I was at an object-handling session on the 5th March 2013 and as I had arrived early I took the opportunity get out my phone and play with the QR codes set up next to selected objects. A project called “Tales of Things” has been rolled out at a number of museums, and the Petrie is contributing. The “Tales of Things” project has been set up to explore the relationships that people form with objects. So when you see a QR code in the Petrie with the words “Tales of Things” above it, you will know that it is part of the project, and you can participate.
QR (“Quick Response”) codes are two-dimensional bar codes. Unlike the vertical row barcodes so familiar on books, CDs and groceries scanned through supermarket tills, QR codes are combinations of vertical and horizontal lines arranged in patterns contained within squares. The one on the left links to an article in the Petrie Museum’s blog. The two major benefits of them are that a) QR codes can be generated by anyone using a standard web application and b) they can be scanned by users from print or screen by smart-phones and tablet computers.
Guest blogger: Chris Webb
Wednesday 12 February at The Petrie Museum, saw our first evening in a series of talks given by our Timekeeper in residence, artist-curator Cathy Haynes, www.cathyhaynes.org, as she took us on a tour of objects in the museum and wider world that give us different experiences of time. The sequence of events is designed to question how we perceive, measure and record time. With the engagement of our lively audience, the evening suggested some interesting interpretations. As Cathy herself said, this first event threw up more questions than answers!
Guided through a world of chronology, we were invited to consider how everyone from the ancient Egyptians to Facebook’s timeline observed, understood and recorded time. We then deliberated on the material culture and objects that shape out understanding of time. Examples from the Petrie’s collection included: concepts of dynasties, votive bowls, shadow clocks/sun-dials, a worn-out leather shoe, a water clock, and the large amount of stelai and memorialisation that represent permanent markers connected with death and the afterlife, not to mention Flinders Petrie’s own meticulous sequential dating of objects.
A new year has begun and our Fellows are now developing their projects back in their respective institutions. The Cultural Heritage Fellowship, which was established in 2012, aimed at promoting and analysing means of community engagement in cultural institutions in the MENA region. With Fellows from such a range of countries and institutions the projects are developing in unique and original ways. Following from our post last year, I will briefly profile our Jordanian Fellows, Nada Sheikh-Yasin and Mohammad Shaqdih.
Mohammad Shaqdih started as the Education Officer at Darat al Funun, a pioneering institution for Jordanian and Arab world arts and artists, and now is the Assistant Director for the Outreach Program. Founded in 1993, Darat al Funun has a holistic melange of facilities, including library, gardens and performance spaces, as well as the exhibition galleries and workshops. The current exhibition, “The power of the word”, uses pieces from the private collections from more than 20 artists from a mix of Arab Countries (such as Muna Hattoum, Rashid Quraishi, Lila Shawwa, Adel Abdin etc.). By choosing artworks that include words and writings, this lively collection seeks to: “provide the public with a bird’s eye view of works of art created by Arab artists and gives the opportunity to witness, as closely as possible, the development of the Arab Art Movement”. With a background in graphic design and a degree in Applied Arts, Mohammad proved a very insightful Fellow, with experience of working on both side of the art industry, as artist and, now, Director. (more…)
A few weeks ago, I found myself standing in the artefact store, staring down the barrel of a film camera while the cameraman and director stared expectantly back at me. I was supposed to say something bright, pithy, and appealing about our collections, and I was supposed to say it now.
This year saw another lively and successful Bloomsbury festival with collections, performances, and art installations being opened up for anyone to visit and enjoy. In the melee of such a diverse bunch, the Petrie Museum was mentioned in Time Out for its soundscape interactive which offered visitors the “chance to ‘listen’ to animals from ancient Egypt“. This event for families encouraged children to explore the environment of Egypt, using digital technology, interwoven with the 80,000 piece collection and a hands on chance to make your own animal, based on the sounds and objects experienced. The interactive website follows a team of Egyptian hunters on the Nile facing crocodiles, hippos and lions, using the weapons found within the Petrie Museum to try and be victorious.
his was a nice, light-hearted event that allowed a younger audience to engage, interact and add to an archaeology collection. As well as this, the event encouraged a new thought process, to think of environment; reallocating the objects within their context of use. Users are posed questions of conservation, such as why are animal carcasses not found, and are then apply their knowledge immediately to draw their own conclusions. Digital Humanities is an ever thrown about term in the museum sector, and the Petrie is certainly a leading figure in this arena. Apps using augmented reality, 3D models and even gesture recognition are creating a whole new way to interact with the collection.
Aside from the digital aspects I am really pleased to see children, and adults, willing to make their own objects for the museum, emulating the ancient models (as above). This may initially seem a little trivial, and certainly our plethora of violently green elephants and pink lions do add a little neon vibrancy to the collection, but the fundamental behind such an activity is the concept of ownership and use of the collection. I consider it an excellent practice to encourage visitors, and workers within the museum to not only look at a collection, but to use it for new purposes. At UCL this is often through the medium of research at school, undergraduate and postgraduate level, but it can also be by creating new pieces, even technologies. I have only been at the museum since 2010 (when I started as a Masters student of the IOA), but a few of my favourite projects such as the Comic Book Workshop in collaboration with Camden University, and Magic Assembly: Magic Assemblage exhibition in collaborations with Central St Martins (UAL), encouraged young students to create new work using the collection as inspiration. I am not suggesting new work is necessarily in a position to replace the old, but as a way of drawing a link between a somewhat alien and separate past and our current environment and sentiments.