Institute of Archaeology


AHRC award for Egypt at the Horniman Museum project

6 September 2022

Alice Stevenson (UCL Institute of Archaeology) and Johanna Zetterstrom-Sharp (UCL East) have been awarded AHRC funding for their project on mobilising collections histories for institutional change.


How might studies of social histories of collections have a long-term, transformative effect on museum infrastructures, practices, and stakeholders? How can this transformation be documented and evaluated? Nowhere is this work more necessary than in the case of Egyptian collections. Research has demonstrated how widespread Egyptian collections are throughout the UK, how they have been orphaned from modern Egyptian communities, and how they perpetuate colonial thinking.

This innovative 3-year project is funded by the AHRC and led by Alice Stevenson, together with UCL Institute of Archaeology alumna, Johanna Zetterstrom-Sharp (who will join UCL East in November as Associate Professor in Heritage Studies). It will involve a critical social history, characterisation, and appraisal of a museum collection (Egypt in the Horniman) in tandem with a longitudinal study of internal and external stakeholders of that collection, together with critical practice engagements, to examine how collections work can have an impact across museum activity from education teams, to social media managers through to the shop, in order to change the way that cultures are spoken about and understood institutionally.

The Egyptian collection at the Horniman ranges from prehistoric materials to twentieth-century ethnographic artefacts (inclusive of jewellery and costume), as well as related photographic and manuscript collections on the acquisition and use of the material.

This research will involve both material and digital spaces, exploring these as social, educational, and resource-intensive spaces that both intersect and lie in tension with each other. The project will provide a model of how to transform institutional practice building on the foundation of an informed understanding of the scope and significance of collections and devising a programme of engagement.