Mysteries of Ancient Egypt - Unlocking Stories Behind The Collection

Today marks International Day of Archaeology, a celebration of archaeology and its contributions to society.

Across our museums, archives and galleries, we care for over 2.5 million historic objects, from working steam engines to fragile ancient artefacts. Our collections tell the stories of the people, and animals!, who lived thousands of years ago, right through to the present day.

Marking this national day, Emma Banks, Collections Programme Manager, offers some fascinating insight into one of our latest exhibitions, The Mysteries of Ancient Egypt at Andover Museum.

In 2022, Hampshire Cultural Trust embarked on an exciting project thanks to a grant from the Museum Development South East Creative Collections fund. This grant opened the doors to an exploration of Ancient Egyptian objects within the Hampshire County Council and Winchester City Council collections. We sought the perspectives of young people on what interested them about Ancient Egyptian history, weaving their insights into a temporary exhibition to shed new light on our collection.

Piece of a wooden Ancient Egyptian coffin audited as part of the project

During this journey, we had the opportunity to meet Dr. Dan Potter who gave a tour of the Egyptian Galleries at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Dr. Potter, is the recipient of an Arts and Humanities Research Council fellowship, exploring archaeologists' interactions with the antiquities market between 1880 and 1939. His work, the first of its kind, highlights the history of British-led excavations in Egypt and Sudan.

 Back at home, within the corners of our own collection, we started exploring the Ancient Egyptian objects we care for. With the help of Winchester University students, Holly McKinstry and Tuva Strom an audit took place. However, some objects had little or no information about how they had left Egypt and arrived in Hampshire.

Winchester University placement students Holly McKinstry and Tuva Strom auditing the Ancient Egyptian objects in the collection

The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw a surge in European interest in Ancient Egyptian history. Archaeologists sponsored by wealthy benefactors embarked on expeditions, unearthing objects to satisfy their curiosity about Ancient Egyptian life. However, this enthusiasm often led to the loss of Egypt's cultural heritage with items removed form Egypt. Some objects found their way into museum collections, including our own, but the details of their journeys were lost over time.

We were then able to share the audit result with Dr. Dan Potter who gave us ideas, insights and information about the collections and ways they could be redisplayed. As part of the audit, we had a collection of objects that appear to have been collected by an individual, with labels attached. The labels showed the name ‘C.J Wallace'.

Ancient Egyptian objects threaded on string with a written label saying 'Sacred Scarabs from The Tombs of Thebes C. J. Wallace

We carried out archival and desktop research to find out more about this collector and discovered a C.J. Wallace, a military officer who was stationed in Egypt with the 2nd Battalion Highland Light Infantry. Charles John Wallace had a distinguished military career, later becoming a Major General and being awarded the Military Cross and an OBE. He had connections to Hampshire as he married Helen Elizabeth Swinnerton Dyer in Bradfield, Berkshire, just 16 miles from Basingstoke in 1932. Wallace died aged 53 in December 1943.

Based on the evidence we have, we assume that this is the C. J Wallace who collected the items when he was in Egypt, brought them back to England, and that he or his family donated them to the museum.

Our fascinating Egypt exhibition, Mysteries of Ancient Egypt – Unlocking Stories Behind The Collection, is on at Andover Museum until 21 January. This is a free exhibition - donations are welcomed.

Step into the captivating world of Ancient Egypt and embark on an extraordinary journey through the ages at this exhibition! Unravel the mysteries of everyday life for the ancient Egyptians and delve into the depths of their fascinating beliefs. Explore the captivating stories behind why these objects now reside in Hampshire.

With interactive exhibits, engaging hands-on activities, and games suitable for all ages, you'll be fully immersed in the fascinating world of ancient civilizations.

Mysteries of Ancient Egypt | Hampshire Cultural Trust
Step into the captivating world of Ancient Egypt and embark on an extraordinary journey through the ages at this exhibition!
This article was written by:
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Emma Banks

Collections Programme Manager
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