Tag Archives: cartonnage

An intern’s perspective: Cataloguing Egypt at Manchester Museum

Fragment of cartonnage. No number.

Fragment of cartonnage. No number.

Here our most recent intern, Hannah Perry – a student at UCL Qatar, describes her placement at the Manchester Museum, and the experience of working on collections.


As part of my Museum and Gallery Practice MA at University College London-Qatar, I carried out a one-month placement with Manchester Museum.  The aims of the placement were to apply the skills learned throughout the course towards an institution of our interest.  An art history student focusing on ancient Egyptian art as an undergraduate in the States, I was very excited for this opportunity to work with Manchester’s Ancient Egyptian collection!


Throughout my time here, I worked on a project photographing and documenting over 1,000 of the 16,000 objects in Manchester’s Egyptian collection.  Among these objects were bronze statuettes, ivories, animal specimens, coffin casings, jewelry and much more.  All photographs and information were uploaded to the Manchester Museum records database, which are made available to the public via the museum website.  This was a particularly fulfilling task for me, considering I have lived in many regions with little to none ancient Egyptian collections, I am very appreciative of museum initiatives to share online collections.


It came immediately to me that Manchester Museum is very different from the institutions I am familiar with in the Gulf.  In Qatar, it has been an incredible experience to witness the formative years of world-class museums.  As they were born in the digital age, collections have grown simultaneously in both their physical acquisition and digital experience.    In Manchester, on the other hand, the collection has been in the works since the 19th century- well documented in book after book of museum records.  The objects I recorded were accompanied by notes from generations of curators and keepers, often times just as exciting as the objects themselves.   For me, every object was a fascinating discovery, and I could imagine for many museums, revisiting stored objects for database entry may sometimes result in exciting rediscoveries as well.


A profusion of copper alloy Osiris statuettes

A profusion of copper alloy Osiris statuettes

Although the process of record keeping may seem tedious to some, my work at the Manchester Museum turned out to be an invaluable experience.  Museum catalogues and databases, important to the non-local public, are often taken for granted.  I gained an insight into the huge amount of work involved in recording a collection as large and historic as Manchester’s Egyptian collection.  Although I have previously learned to maintain and create museum database in a classroom setting, it was not until I applied these skills at the Manchester Museum that I actually grew to appreciate the process.  Now I can only hope to continue this work somewhere as incredible as the Manchester Museum!

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Curator’s Diary 20/9/12: Ancient Egypt in Macclesfield

Detail of the figure of Shebmut, from her cartonnage mummy case – a highlight of the Macclesfield collection.

Amidst all the intense preparations for our Ancient Worlds re-display, a highlight of this week was a visit to the West Park Museum in Macclesfieldhome to almost 500 ancient Egyptian and Sudanese objects. The collection is largely the result of the collecting activities of Miss Marianne Brocklehurst, a friend of Amelia Edwards (founder of the EES), daughter of Macclesfield’s first MP, and an avid Egyptophile. Marianne and her travelling companion Mary Booth (collectively known as the ‘MB’s in Amelia’s accounts of their travels), had both a keen eye for Egyptian antiquities and the money to afford several fine objects.

The collection is now under the charge of Honorary Curator Alan Hayward. Alan is an extremely knowledgable guide to the objects in Macclesfield, and an authority on the MBs in Egypt. A highlight of the collection is the 22nd Dynasty cartonnage mummy case of a temple singer of Amun named Shebmut. Marianne gives a hair-raising account in her diary of buying the case (with mummy inside) in western Thebes and having to jettison its embalmed occupant for fear that the smell of the mummy would arouse suspition from the crew of the dahabiya upon which the MBs were travelling!

1891 watercolour sketch of the clearing of the Deir el-Bahri mummy cache

Another highlight of the visit was seeing Marianne’s profusely illustrated diary and watercolour sketches – including the only depiction of the clearance in 1891 of the Deir el-Bahri cache of priestly mummies. It was particularly pleasing to be able to introduce Cynthia Sheikholeslami, a friend and colleague from Cairo who has extensively researched the cache, to Alan – and the original copies of the sketches.

A very useful digital version of both Marianne’s sketches and a catalogue of the objects at Macclesfield is available on CD at the Museum. I hope to present some of the parallels between the Macclesfield collection and material in Manchester sometime in the future.

Alan will be giving a free lecture on ‘The M.B.s in Egypt’ on Wednesday 10th of October, at 7:30pm in the Heritage Centre, Roe Street, Macclesfield. Call 01625 613210 for more information.

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