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‘African Hair Combs’ – a Conservator’s comment

EdmundConnolly28 October 2013

Guest Blogger: Pia Edqvist

Has anyone seen the exhibition ’Origins of the Afro Comb, 6,000 years of Culture, Politics and Identity’ currently on display at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge? If so, what did you think?

If not, you must go and see it; the display will be closing on the 3rd November and you do not want to miss this exhibition.

 

Origins of the Afro Comb

Origins of the Afro Comb

On display is the iconic Black fist comb which was the symbol of the Black Civil Rights and Power Movement during the 1970’s in the USA. Earlier, the Afro comb was not very visible and for this reason it has been assumed that the afro comb was developed during this time. But this exhibition shows that the afro comb dates back to Ancient Egypt. The oldest comb is an Ancient Egyptian comb 5,500 years old which is displayed side by side with the black fist comb. The parallels between these combs are what inspired this exhibition. The connections made between the past and the present make this exhibition extra fascinating. This is also seen in the presentations of oral histories and testimonies within the exhibition which document attitudes towards hair and grooming in the present day. These contributions will also create an archive for the future.

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Petrie Menagerie: The Aviary and Insect House

EdmundConnolly6 September 2013

And so we arise from the submerged depths to soar into the Egyptian firmament on the wings of their birds and beetles. Aviaries were a very early element of the menagerie and zoological garden, and were very accessible to Petrie’s peers.

Petrie’s Menagerie #6: The Aviary and Insect House

There are numerous iconic bird images in the Egyptian corpus: the hawk, ibis[1], and vulture being some of the most common. I will focus on the latter, considering their potential relation to Empire and Colonialism, so prevalent in the 19th century mind.

I’m generally apathetic towards insect houses, however, the insect we are looking at today is perhaps one of the most versatile and widely used animals of our entire menagerie. Scarab beetles (Scarabaeus sacer) is a good example of a rather common place animal, the dung beetle, being revered and represented in more mystical ways due to its prevalence in Egyptian mythology.

The Object:

Scurrying back to my more specialist material I present this stele featuring a bloke (perhaps a priest) in Roman garb burning incense on an altar before Isis and Anubis (two gods associated, among other manifestations, with the afterlife).

A roman stele with the scarab at the top

A roman stele with the scarab at the top

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Petrie Menagerie: The Aquarium and Reptile House

EdmundConnolly30 August 2013

Our animal companionship has grown, with horses meandering along Egyptian groves, alongside languid hippos and regal lions. Returning to our first specimen, the hippo, we will dive once more into the waters to cavort in an aquarium of fish and chill in the boreal shades of a reptile house.

Petrie Menagerie #5: The Aquarium and the Reptile House

Egypt has two major water sources: the Nile which acts as a spine for the country, running down into Africa, and the Mediterranean sea. Both were essential for the trade routes, travel and artefacts that Ancient Egyptians are so famous for. In addition, these important bodies of water held swarms of fish, which were a key element of the Ancient Egyptian diet. Reptiles appear in Egyptian iconography principally as snakes, scorpions and crocodiles[1] in a host of iconographic, religious and spiritual incarnations.

An Egyptian flat fish

An Egyptian flat fish

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Petrie Menagerie: The Petting Zoo

EdmundConnolly9 August 2013

Our menagerie has now gained two members which, by most standards, its not very many, so I am now going to throw in 4 more all under one child friendly umbrella: the Petting Zoo.

 

Petrie Menagerie #3 Domestic (including small and pick-up-able) Animals:

Thanks to the Nile, Egypt has areas of impressive fertility, granting the locals good crops and a regular cycle of irrigation and growth. In addition to arable produce, livestock were prevalent, including chickens, sheep and donkeys (and associated hybrids).

 

The Objects(s):

Given the prevalence of these creatures, it’s not surprising there are many representations of them:

A leggy pig

A leggy pig

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Looking Backwards, Looking Forwards.

EdmundConnolly7 August 2013

Reflecting on the past year for the Cultural Heritage Fellowship I am writing another post cataloguing our two final fellows, Sonia Slim (Tunisia) and Ramdane Kamal (Algeria)[1].

Sonia is a Chief Architect at the National Institute of Heritage, with an extensive background of work and study in architecture and conservation, and archaeological site management which offered her a very unique and refreshing approach to the concept of community engagement in heritage. Her previous projects included monitoring the site of Dar Rashid and she oversaw the studies for the conversion of the opulent Ksar Said palace to the Museum of Tunisia’s Contemporary History Museum. Sonia has a very firm belief that architects should be of service to society and can help develop spaces to be of more use and appropriated by the public. Coming with such a firm belief in community engagement and services Sonia easily transitioned from the training weeks in the UK to her own project in Tunisia.

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Petrie’s Menagerie: The Hippopotamus

EdmundConnolly26 July 2013

 

The link between the Petrie collection and Egypt is pretty obvious, founded in 1892 the collection incorporates roughly 80,000 Egyptian and Sudanese objects ranging from human remains to socks. The collection is still viewed and used by thousands of visitors a year, but I am intrigued by the Victorian audience, what would they have made of this collection? More precisely I am researching[1] the animals on display in the Petrie collection and how they may have been received and the vibrant history they were thrust into when brought to London. This series of 7 blogs will include material from the Petrie collection and archive, as well as some cross-collection references.

Specimen #1: The Hippopotamus

The name comes from the Greek (ἱπποπόταμος) meaning river horse, personally I see it more as an oversized pig, but hey who am I to argue with the Greeks, these aquatic equestrians are a common feature of children’s media[2] and the Africa vista. Egypt is the northern-most point that the Hippo is found naturally, gallivanting around in the Nile’s cooling waters.Hippo-3

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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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Working [in Museums] Wednesdays #2

EdmundConnolly29 May 2013

The Vexation of Volunteering

Volunteering in museums has being a bit maligned, are budding young enthusiasts being taken advantage of ? (such as this MJ article). Unfortunately, there may appear  an unfair element to volunteering, and they are essential in the running of many, if not all, museums. However, where the Petrie flys in the face of the nay-sayers is our commitment to offering our volunteers as holistic an experience as possible when they join our team.

From Bastet to Bodybuilders, our volunteers see it all. Copyright Marilyn Luscombe.

From Bastet to Bodybuilders, our volunteers see it all. Copyright Marilyn Luscombe.

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Tomb Raiders: Ancient Egypt in Modern Art

EdmundConnolly17 May 2013

 Guest blogger: Kholood Al-Fahad

How can Ancient art be brought to life by contemporary art? Is there a connection between ancient and new?

Tomb Raiders is the place were such questions should have an answer.

Florence's temporal balloons

Florence’s temporal balloons

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