The blog post for this week is a guest entry by Jiayun Zhu, a Museum Studies placement student from Leicester University.
For the past two months (13th July–6th September), I was fortunate to be an intern at the Egypt Centre and to help Ken sort out and inspect the reserve collection in preparation for moving to the new store. There are more than 5,000 items in the collection, and although I didn’t have enough time to appreciate each one, I frequently found something interesting in the boxes. While it’s easy to get tired of constantly repeating the examination process, the collection and entering data, I tried to find some lovely details. For example, do you know what this thing shaped like a cat’s leg is (fig. 1)? I thought at first it was a leg of a table or bed based on an animal leg. However, it’s actually the beard from a wooden coffin!
|Fig. 1: Comparison between a cat leg and wooden beard|
The most surprising thing for me was that we found the bones of some snakes in an unremarkable bag of sand and bandages. The skulls of the snake bones were so well preserved that they were put on display in the animal case in the House of Life (fig. 2). It makes me excited because I found a new exhibit with my own hands, thus making it an unforgettable experience.
|Fig. 2: A collection of snake heads|
The Egypt Centre contains a mass of exquisite and historic artifacts, yet it turned out my favorite objects were inlay eyes from coffins (fig. 3). These eyes are not preserved in pairs; each one is unique. Some only have only eye sockets, some only have the white of the eye and pupils. Although they are incomplete, they are still vivid like human eyes. This is because the craftsmen chose the right material to express the details of the eyes. Some eyes are made of a single material, while others are made of composite materials. For example, some eyes are carved entirely out of stone. Other eyes are more complex with different materials for their eye sockets, white of eyes, and pupils. Egyptians tended to use bronze for the shape of eyes, pale pottery or faience for the whites, and black glass for the pupils. It reflects the depth of the orb and the lustre of the pupil, which is why they were so appealing to me.
|Fig. 3: A collection of eyes|
The development of the new store from nothing to now was witnessed by me, and I was fortunate to have been involved in some steps. When I first started my placement, the new store was just an empty room. Soon after the roller racking shelving was added, then the air conditioning unit was activated, and the CCTV and alarm installed. In my last week, we started to move objects from the old Wellcome Store to the new one. This included the large Amarna pot (fig 4), which was the focus of an earlier blog post by Molly Osborne.
|Fig. 4: Myself with Sam Powell, Ken Griffin, and Molly Osborne moving the Amarna pot|
It can be said that my two-month placement was a real treasure hunt. It not only transformed my perception of museums from theory to practice, but also broadened my understanding of Egyptian culture. I would like to thank all the staff and volunteers in the Egypt Centre, especially Carolyn and Ken who were both knowledgeable and always willing to answer my questions. These two months were so pleasant that the time passed very quickly. I like Swansea, the Egypt Centre, and all the people there!