Secret Egypt – Unravelling Truth from Myth

Exhibition & Display Curator Lucy Cooper talks about what visitors can expect to see at our latest exhibition at Weston Park, Secret Egypt – Unravelling Truth from Myth:

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working on our new exhibition at Weston Park, Secret Egypt - Unravelling Truth from Myth. The exhibition uses the evidence of some fantastic objects spanning 4000 years to investigate the truth behind some of the popular myths about ancient Egypt; from the Mummy’s curse to the building of the pyramids.

Ancient Egypt has long been a favourite subject with our visitors, with many people drawn to the mummies in our Treasures Gallery and our Egypt-Ankh amulet, Museums Sheffieldthemed workshops for schools. Museums Sheffield, like many other regional museums also has a small but significant number of Egyptian artefacts in its collection. We were therefore delighted by the chance to bring a major touring exhibition about Egypt to Sheffield.

We’ve taken the opportunity to display 30 objects from Sheffield’s collections, incorporated within the themes of the exhibition. These range from beautiful amulets and shabtis to a lock of hair believed to originate from a ceremonial wig. The remainder of the exhibition is formed from 150 objects drawn from Birmingham Museums' significant ancient Egyptian collection. Together the objects provide a wealth of evidence through which popular myths can be challenged.

Each section of the exhibition uses a mixture of artefacts and interactives to explore the questions posed. In What is real? What is fake? visitors can explore the world of fakes and copies to show the importance of genuine artefacts in understanding the past. As well as modern fakes the exhibition also explains how ancient Egyptians themselves used imitation artefacts in place of the ‘real’ thing and an interactive quiz challenges visitors to separate the real and the fake.

Did aliens build the pyramids? includes a chance to build a pyramid from soft blocks, and How well do we know the ancient Egyptians? has both dressing up and a twist on the ‘top trumps’ game for our younger visitors to enjoy. Objects are used here to explore the popular image of ancient Egyptians, in particular the most celebrated names such as Tutankhamun and Ramesses.

Two linked sections examine ideas of death and the afterlife. Beware the mummy's curse! exposes the sensationalism behind the gruesome idea that bandaged mummies would rise from the dead to chase and terrify the living. It presents the true purpose of mummification and shows the respect given to the body through techniques that helped to preserve and protect it. Were the Egyptians obsessed with death? looks at the elaborate tombs and coffins which were believed to help achieve eternal life in the next world. Visitors can discover the significance of amulets, shabtis and canopic jars, with an interactive helping them learn how mummified organs were sorted into different symbolic containers.

For those visitors keen to look further into the exhibition themes we have provided some key reading material, and also an interview with well-known Barnsley-born Egyptologist Dr Joann Fletcher. A programme of talks and workshops also accompanies the exhibition; see our Whats On pages for more details.

Secret Egypt – Unravelling Truth from Myth is on show at Weston Park until 10 April.

Secret Egypt is a Herbert Touring exhibition, developed in partnership with Birmingham Museums Trust.

 

Images:

Top: Eye of Horus amulet (664 - 332 BC), Museums Sheffield
Bottom: Ankh amulet, Museums Sheffield

 

Jan 18 2016

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