UCL News


UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology co-hosts Curses! by Bompas & Parr

16 November 2017

"Curses!", a new month-long installation by design agency Bompas & Parr and the UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology exploring ancient rights, superstitions and science, opens this Saturday at UCL.


Focused on the rituals and practices of Ancient Egypt, "Curses!" leads guests through an immersive experience designed to be informative and engaging while testing visitors' nerves and any scepticism they have about rituals and their power.  

Tapping into the subconscious and invoking ancient superstitious rites, visitors will be exposed to an assortment of "cursed" objects and stories involving curses, prior to "experiencing a curse" themselves in what Bompas & Parr have termed a "multi-sensory journey".

Part of the rationale behind the installation is what Bompas & Parr believe to be an increasing level of superstition in the UK. They emphasise that, while modern-day superstitions like lucky numbers and "touching wood" are not considered as seriously as the "curse tales" told in Ancient Egypt, it is this latent and often unacknowledged sense of superstition that will be tapped into, explored, and tested during the exhibition.

The UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology hosts one of the greatest collections of Egyptian archaeology in the world. Equipped with a headset and a map, visitors will be encouraged to explore the museum's collection of more than 88,000 artefacts as they are guided towards specific objects and stories. In the course of the journey guests will learn about psychological phenomena, such as the placebo effect, hear anecdotal horror stories, as well as famous superstitions. These include the alleged 17-year curse of Tutankhamun's tomb, said to have been unleashed by the disturbance of the tomb.  

The next part of the installation involves the more immersive part of the experience, with participants invited to climb into a chamber "designed to evoke the physical and subconscious symptoms of being cursed". Guests will encounter darkness, a soundtrack of modulated frequencies and subliminal notes, and strange cool surfaces.

Harry Parr, Director and co-founder of Bompas & Parr and an alumnus of the UCL Bartlett School of Architecture, said of the exhibition: "It has been said that our common superstitions have lingered for thousands of years, nurtured by our need to manufacture control over uncertainty. Fear is the main source of superstition, and at Bompas & Parr we hope to play on these innate fears, whilst mirroring them in the archaic tales we have been conditioned to disbelieve."

Sam Bompas, the company's other co-founder, is an alumnus of UCL Geography. Since founding their agency, Bompas & Parr has grown into a multi-sensory experience design studio that has realised projects across the globe and worked with leading brands as well as eminent cultural institutions. Their most recognisable projects include Alcoholic Architecture, an inhabitable cloud of gin and tonic and the world's first Multi-Sensory Fireworks display for London's New Year's Eve in 2013.

Anna Garnett, Curator at the UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, said: "We welcome the collaboration with Bompas & Parr and the chance to unpick the myths and learn more about ancient Egyptian curses through this playful and immersive experience. We hope visitors will enjoy their tour and appreciate the context of the artefacts and their cultural legacy."

"Curses!" runs from 18 November to 16 December 2017 and can be booked via the link below. It is a paid-for event, with tickets costing £6 to enter. 



  • Credit: Bompas & Parr

Media contact

Jacinta Mulders

Tel: +44 20 3108 6496

Email: j.mulders [at] ucl.ac.uk