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New galleries to bring Ancient Egypt to life

Published on Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Curator at work

TWO brand new galleries that will bring the fascinating stories of ancient Egypt to life will open at New Walk Museum on Saturday (20 October) – just in time for Leicester’s half-term break.

The first new family-friendly gallery will focus on life in ancient Egypt, starting from the earliest evidence of human activity and continuing until the Byzantine period in the first millennium AD.

Exhibits will include children’s toys ­– including a doll’s tiny shirt from early Christian Egypt – jewellery, pottery and stone tools.

Items of clothing will also feature in the exhibition, including a colourful knitted Coptic sock dating from around 300AD.

Three Egyptian amulets – excavated here in Roman Leicester – will be on display too, as well as a 4,000 year-old wooden model boat that illustrates the importance of the River Nile to the ancient Egyptians.

Visitors will also be able to see four 5,000 year-old siltstone palettes that would have been used – by both men and women – for mixing cosmetics.

The second gallery will focus on death in ancient Egypt. Central to the display will be the four mummified bodies of Bes-en-mut, Ta-Bes, Pe-iuy and Pa-nesit-tawy, together with objects that would have typically been placed in ancient Egyptian tombs. Better interpretation, backed up by photographs and x-rays, will shed light on how bodies were mummified.

Two linen fragments from the Book of the Dead and a colourfully-painted ‘shabti box’ – that would have originally contained around 400 figurines known as ‘shabtis’ – will also be on display.

Stories of how the objects came to Leicester in the late 1800s and early 1900s will also be told in the new galleries. Visitors will learn that Leicester was given hundreds of items from British excavations in Egypt, with the mummies and coffins of Bes-en-mut and Ta-Bes bequeathed to the city by John Mason Cook – the son of local travel pioneer Thomas Cook.

The new galleries will also include a large discovery desk, where up to 40 students at a time will be able to learn about the ancient Egyptians.

Deputy city mayor Cllr Piara Singh Clair said: “New Walk Museum is home to the most important collection of Egyptian artefacts in the whole of the East Midlands but, up until now, we’ve only been able to display around a third of the items in our collection.

“These new galleries will allow us to showcase more than 400 objects that will demonstrate that the ancient Egyptians had lives that were as fascinating as their afterlives.

“I hope that these new galleries will prove to be even more popular than our previous Egyptian gallery, and that they’ll give visitors the opportunity to not only learn about the tombs and mummies of ancient Egypt, but also to understand more about the vibrant lives that these people led.”

New investment of around £200,000 – including a grant of £145,000 from the DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund – has funded the two new galleries, which are located on the first floor of New Walk Museum.

The new galleries – Life and Death in Ancient Egypt – open to the public at 11am on Saturday 20 October.

To mark the launch of the new galleries on Saturday, families will be able to take part in a range of free arts and crafts activities with an ancient Egypt theme. There will be a chance to have fun with hieroglyphics, have a go at Egyptian belly-dancing and find out how a 3D printer can perfectly replicate ancient objects.

Admission to the museum, and to the new galleries, is free of charge.

To support the opening of the new galleries, a pop-up museum will open in the lower mall at Highcross from Tuesday (23) to Friday (26 Oct).

Located between Next and Superdry, the pop-up museum will be open from 10am-3pm each day, and will include items from a number of exhibitions, including the ancient Egypt galleries. Children on their half-term break will be able to learn about ancient Egyptian medicines, costume and embalming.

More information about exhibitions at Leicester’s museums is available at www.visitleicester.info