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Musketeers, Curvy ladies, and Victorian crowd-funders: Beyond Beauty exhibition and the complexities of the past and present of ancient Egypt

Start: Nov 16, 2016 05:15 PM

Location: Room 410, UCL Institute of Archaeology

Beyond Beauty Exhibition poster

Heba Abd El Gawad (Durham University) will give a seminar organised by the Institute's History of Archaeology Research Network at the Institute on 16 November.

Abstract

The early months of 2016 witnessed the 5th installment of the annual Two Temple Place Winter Exhibition series themed on ancient Egypt. The exhibition aimed to bring together ancient Egyptian objects from seven of the nearly 200 publicly accessible ancient Egyptian collections in the UK from regional museums to London´s West End. Moving away from conventional approaches and narratives of ancient Egypt within exhibition space, Beyond Beauty was mostly concerned with filling the gap between us and the ancient and modern Egyptians.

Through displaying “orphaned” objects ordinarily kept in store rooms, the exhibition showcased how the ancient Egyptians perceived their body image and what counted for them as a “perfect appearance”. The exhibition revealed through archival material the fascinating stories behind the objects´ discovery and the Victorian local crowd-funding efforts which have ensured the public accessibility of the objects in local museums. The link between ancient and modern Egypt was emphasized through the events programme as well as the shop´s handmade Egyptian products reflecting modern Egyptian perceptions of beauty and appearance.

Beyond Beauty contributes to the rising debates on the importance of engaging the public with the history of collections and the need to re-consider how ancient Egypt is narrated within museum space amid the political, economic, cultural, and social challenges facing the wider heritage scene and the world today. This talk will take us behind the scenes of the making, selling, and reception of the dismembered objects of ancient Egypt and Egyptology at Lord Astor´s Victorian mansion. It will place at centre stage the soft power of the history of collections in shaping local identities and forging international relations. It will also argue the case of the vital relevance of museum collections and their history to our daily lives and how this can be best achieved through linking museum displays with modern debates and events.

  • All welcome!
  • Any enquiries about the event may be directed to Amara Thornton