One of the most interesting aspects of my new job is understanding the relationship between the Museum’s collections and local people, and why artefacts from Egypt and Sudan have been so popular in Manchester. A newly published book by Hilary Forrest, a member of Manchester Ancient Egypt Society, provides a useful summary of the history of Egyptological interest in the Greater Manchester area, and an introduction to the many Egypt enthusiasts the region has produced and been closely associated with.
As part of the redevelopment of our Ancient Worlds galleries, the Museum has been consulting local community groups. A week into the job, I accompanied our Curator for Community Exhibitions on a visit to a group of older people called ‘Forever Young’, who meet regularly at Fallowfield Library. This was a superb opportunity to get a local perspective on our plans and explore expectations for the galleries. Interest focused on the precise age of the objects, their materials, and how they could be tied into Egyptian history. A particular fondness emerged for our Graeco-Roman mummy portrait collection, which I’m sure will be satisfied by our new displays.
Work on the Ancient Worlds galleries themselves continues apace, and I have been busy selecting object images for digital resources from the thousands taken by photographer Paul Cliffe. However, one of our most exciting recent discoveries concerned some very old photos. Lynsey Halliday, a student volunteer at the Museum about to begin a Masters in Museum Studies at Leicester, happened across a box containing dozens of old photographs of Egypt. They were mainly taken by the Zangaki brothers, who are known to have been active in Egypt between 1870 and 1890. Others are by contemporaries Antonio Beato and P. Peridis. A range of scenes are recorded, including both pharaonic remains and intimate studies of contemporary people. Monuments are often depicted still half-buried – the very situation encountered by important figures in the formation of the Manchester Egyptology collection – such as W. M. F. Petrie, Amelia Edwards, and Jesse Haworth – when they themselves first visited Egypt.
Lynsey has repackaged and scanned each of the images, and thanks to her careful work digital versions are now available to view in a Flickr gallery. Perhaps you own or have seen similar images? We’d be very keen to find out!