The blog post for this week has been written by Hugo Rault-Marical, who arrived to Swansea University in January on a six-month exchange programme. Hugo is a Master’s student specialising in Egyptology at the Université de Lille, under the supervision of Dr Ghislaine Widmer and Dr Didier Devauchelle. His dissertation focusses on the syncretism of the Great Sphinx that occurred during the New Kingdom, particularly with the deities Hauron and Horemakhet. He was fortunate to have visited Egypt in 2020, shortly before the COVID-19 lockdown was implemented.
The collaboration between Swansea University and the University of Lille offered me the chance—beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic and Brexit—to come and study in Swansea this semester as an exchange student. Coming from an Egyptology background and wishing to take the French exam to become a curator, Swansea University proved to be an obvious choice, even more than I had initially hoped. This post will briefly outline some of the excellent opportunities I have had over the past few months.
Dr Christian Knoblauch’s module on Ancient Egypt Art and Architecture, which included object handling sessions with Dr Ken Griffin at the Egypt Centre, brought me closer than ever to ancient Egypt. This was my first experience handling Egyptian antiquities and I discovered a completely new way of learning and understanding Egyptian history (fig. 1). Indeed, it is a real bonus for Swansea University students to have this university museum, something that does not exist at the University of Lille; although we are lucky to have the Jacques Vandier library, which specialised in Egyptology.
|Fig. 1: Hugo examining the Egypt Centre's soldier stela (W1366)|
The module called Reaching the Public: Museums and Object Handling was a very good introduction to museum issues in the UK, which are slightly different from those in France. We discussed with the professionals at the Egypt Centre (Dr Ken Griffin, Dr Carolyn Graves-Brown, and Wendy Goodridge) some important aspects of the management of a collection. This included ethics, object-based learning (OBL), education in museums, preventive conservation, and museum interpretation and communication. It was also an opportunity for me to handle more Egyptian antiquities, which was particularly welcome (fig. 2).
|Fig. 2: Practicing object condition reports|
The Swansea University Pottery Project (SUPP), organised by Ken Griffin and Christian Knoblauch as a joint Egypt Centre and OLCAP (Object and Landscape Centred Approaches to the Past) collaboration, was an additional experience in handling objects. Each week, a group of eleven students received training in the documentation of Egyptian pottery, which included updating Egypt Centre’s online catalogue entries (fig. 3). Over the nine weeks, I studied eighteen objects, which can be viewed as a trail via the following link. I learned a lot from this experience and I recommend it to any student interested in the ancient world to be part of it.
|Fig. 3: Discussing a vessel from Esna with Christian|
Finally, Ken Griffin invited us to Cardiff University to see the work being undertaken on the Egypt Centre’s objects by Phil Parkes and the Conservation Department. This included the impressive plaster cast of Djedhor (fig. 4). We used this opportunity to discuss key skills for curatorial roles, which was particularly interesting for many of us.
|Fig. 4: Listening to Phil and Ken discuss the conservation of an ancient textile|
In brief, this semester at Swansea University offered me a way to improve my language skills and experience different methods of teaching under the supervision of professors like Ken Griffin and Christian Knoblauch. I thank them again for their warm welcome and their advice throughout this semester. Moreover, it was a big step forward in the museum world and the curatorial profession. I hope that in the future, the relationship between French universities and Swansea University can be maintained so that other students can benefit from similar enriching experiences.