The post for this week is written by Sam Powell, a regular contributor to this blog.
At the time of writing, we have reached the halfway point in the series of lectures replacing the Wonderful Things 2020 conference. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing lockdown, the Egypt Centre were unable to host their second annual conference in Swansea, which was scheduled to take place this past weekend, 23–24 May (fig. 1). Ever resilient, the Egypt Centre, amongst other resources (see Ken’s previous blog post), have utilised the Zoom platform to host a series of bi-weekly lectures in lieu of the conference. The decision was made to make the Wonderful Things conference lectures free of charge, which has been an amazing opportunity to share the collection on a global scale. To date, 1,084 people have attended these lectures, and 1,470 have viewed the lectures afterwards on the Egypt Centre’s YouTube channel.
|Fig. 1: Wonderful Things conference poster|
Many of the talks so far have related to objects discussed in past blog posts; Ken Griffin discussed the history of the Egypt Centre in his first talk, and then for his second he presented the object life cycle of the Tjenti lintel, which seems to have passed through a wide range of collections and been examined by a range of famous faces. John Rogers and Katherine List gave an update on the conservation work on the faience whistle, as well as a run through of many of the musical objects within the collection. Megan Clark provided an overview of paddle dolls (fig. 2), including our example with its unique motif of a frog, showing examples from a range of collections. A walk-through of the Egyptian objects in Swansea Museum and their relevance to the local community was presented by Carolyn Graves-Brown, during which many Swansea locals shared their memories of some of the objects. Aidan Dodson’s talk shared some fascinating new developments regarding the stone coffin fragments belonging to Amenhotep son of Hapu, which he and Ken have been virtually reconstructing along with fragments held in other institutions. In addition to these talks, I was also allowed to give an overview of the funerary figures I have been working on.
|Fig. 2: Egypt Centre paddle doll (W769)|
The talks have led to a real sense of community with a global audience with a varying range of previous knowledge of the collection. Delegates have been very encouraging of the presenters, and plenty of questions posed by the audience. It’s been impossible to choose a favourite lecture from the conference as all the topics have been so different covering different aspects of researching objects ranging from material analysis of the faience whistle during its conservation, the relevance of the Swansea Museum collection to the local area, and the more recent life cycle of the Tjenti lintel. This range of approaches to the objects has really demonstrated the scope of the material held by the Egypt Centre. There are still ten lectures to follow on a variety of objects, the details of which can be found on the booking page here. The Zoom platform is very easy to use, so if you haven’t booked already for the remaining lectures, please do join us!
|Fig. 3: Sam preparing to start her talk|
Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with my previous posts on my ongoing research into the funerary figures (fig. 4). I have been helping with the series of lectures by co-hosting with Ken to moderate the sessions and helping with any technical difficulties. Therefore, I felt I had gotten the hang of using the virtual lecture room, but it was very different when presenting my own research—especially with the added pressure of realising two of the leading experts on your subject are “in the room”! It was such a useful experience to share my research with a much wider audience than I ever have before, and I’ve received some really lovely messages of support and encouragement from all over the world.
|Fig. 4: The Egypt Centre’s collection of wooden funerary figures|
I am so grateful to the Egypt Centre for encouraging students such as myself not only to research the collection, but also to present our findings to a wider audience. The Wonderful Things conference may not have been exactly as the Egypt Centre had in mind when planning started all those months ago, but it has actually allowed the museum and its objects to reach a much broader audience, many of whom had never heard of the Egypt Centre before but are now planning a visit as soon as it reopens. The staff at the Egypt Centre have truly risen to the challenge of keeping those of us with an interest in Egyptology occupied over these very strange few weeks, and although we can’t, for now, access these objects in person, this is the next best thing. The Egypt Centre is proving to be one of the leading providers of online material, with an online course starting this week on funerary artefacts using Egypt Centre objects, a weekly series of “Bitesize” videos giving short introductions to different objects in the collection, use of the AURA app to allow you to listen to audio clips about each object, and the Come and Create (video below) events becoming online tutorials.
I’m really proud of the Egypt Centre for leading the way in these unusual times and really rising to the challenge of ensuring access to the collection continues in whatever guise it can. Well done to everyone involved!