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Thursday, 18 October 2012

Greyhounds and Welsh Museums: Federation AGM

Shame on me, but it is a while since I attended a meeting of the Welsh Federation of Museums and Galleries in Wales. However, I actually did so yesterday.

The meeting was held at Wrexham Museum. I was really envious of their central town location, their great displays, and especially of the fact that they have a logo with two greyhounds (having a softspot for greyhounds myself). Apparently the dogs are the famous Acton Park hounds.

We heard about the work of the Federation. They do a lot more than just distribute grants! For example an advocacy toolkit has been produced. I was really interested in Jane Henderson's talk on the Distributed National Collection. The National Collection is defined as that which is particularly important to the people of Wales. They have recently carried out a research on doll collections distributed throughout the Principality. They can say a lot about changes in Welsh National costume, among other things. Natural Science is planned next.

In the afternoon, I gave a quick talk on our getting our collections online. Wont say much about this as the link gives more information.

Pat West told us about the Llyn Cerrig Bach Partnership with the National Museum of Wales. Both Anglesy Council and the National Museum deserve a lot of praise for this project. For those of you who don't know, Llyn Cerrig Bach is a hoard of Iron Age (Celtic) artefacts which were discovered in the 1940s. They include a gang chain, a piece of a cauldron, a sickle, etc. The items have been kept for much of their time since their 1940s discovery, in Cardiff, but are now on display in Anglesy.

Eleri Farley told us all about volunteering at Wrexham Museum. It was interesting to hear how other museums do things. Eleri told us that they limit their volunteers to 30 so that they can ensure that the volunteer manager has a good personal relationship with all the volunteers. This is different from Egypt Centre where we need many more volunteers to run our programmes, but I did think it was a good point. Like Egypt Centre, they also see their volunteers as an important link with the community and they have a structured induction process and volunteer roles. Wrexham Museum Service volunteer programme is the first in Wales to achieve the Investors in Volunteers award. Well done to them, and from what Eleri said it is much deserved.

Finally, we had a tour of the galleries. I really liked the way the display was set out, making a lot of use of a limited space. And, I thought the 'Smelly Old Wrexham' interactive was great fun. They have a trail of Wrexham on a panel, and a dog character is shown going around the town sniffing out the different sites. You can lift small panels on the interactive to smell the smells that might interest the dog.

So thank you to the Federation and to Wrexham Museum. I also had a very nice lunch!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Middle Kingdom Statuary

Today we had a visit from a PhD student from Brussels, Simon Connor who is researching Middle Kingdom statuary. Its always useful when researchers come to see the collection as we learn a lot. For example I didn't know that sometimes steatite was heated up to make it look like more expensive stone such as granite. Sometimes modern forgers do the same.

Here are a few of the pieces that Siman looked at:
W301. Simon pointed out that the big belly on this piece is typical of the 13th Dynasty. The inscription is the standard offering formula and mentions a person called Minaa. The piece is made of granodiorite so is an elite piece.

W5291. The piece on the left is also of granodiorite and thus an elite piece. If you view the statue sideways on you would see that the man is kneeling, as is common with other statues showing figures holding vessels. No exact parallel to this is however known. A little more can be found out about it here.

Finally the figures on the left (W847) are steatite. As this is a soft stone it would have been used for the 'not so elite'. You can find out a bit more about this here.

Friday, 12 October 2012

The Archers

arrowNot the Radio 4 programme, but archery stuff in the Egypt Centre, particularly stone arrowheads. The Egyptians also had arrowheads made of bone and metal but the flint arrowheads were especially sharp. Flint is a very effective material for making weaponary. It is lighter than metal, sharper than metal and breaks up when the animal or human moves. The latter quality means that not all the fragment can be got out of flesh. Yuk! Of course, being fragile also means it can't be used again and again. Also, if its light maybe it wouldn't be so good for piercing heavy armour.

The picture above shows some of our hollow based arrowheads dating to the Predynastic Period. The fact that these are made more elaborate than they need be suggests that they may well have had some symbolic importance too. You can read more about them here.

AR503402It is quite feasible to make much simpler arroweads from small flakes of stone. Indeed Egypt Centre has a couple of examples. The example on the left is from Armant. Note how small it is. You can read more about this type here.

The Egyptians used flint arrowheads right up until the 6th century BC, and no wonder. Why switch to metal if flint does the trick.

Monday, 8 October 2012

John Brumfitt Library

Yet another reason the volunteer at the Egypt Centre! The John Brumfitt Library. Volunteers (active volunteers who have done more than 20hours) can now borrow Egyptology books from the Egypt Centre.
John was a volunteer at the Egypt Centre from 2000 and sadly died earlier this year. This is him helping us when we borrowed part of the Rhind Mathematical Papyri from the British Museum.  His family have kindly allowed Egypt Centre to use his book collection as the core of a volunteer lending library. Altogether there are about 400 books but at the moment only a few have been catalogued and are available for borrowing. The few available include:
Allen, J. 2000 Middle Egyptian: an introduction to the language and culture of hieroglyphs.

Brier, B. 1998 The Murder of Tutankhamen: a 3,000 year old murder mystery.

Faulkner, R.O. 1962. A Concise dictionary of Middle Egyptian.

Horning, E. 1999. Akhenaten and the Religion of Light.

Grajetzki, W. 2003 Burial customs in Ancient Egypt: life in death for rich and poor.

Martin, G.T. 1991. The Hidden tombs of Memphis: new discoveries from the time of Tutankhamun and Ramesses the Great.

Morkot, R.G. 2000 The Black pharaohs : Egypt's Nubian rulers

Nunn, J.F. 1996. Ancient Egyptian Medicine.

Reeves, N. 1996. The Complete Valley of the Kings: tombs and treasures of Egypt's greatest pharaohs.

Shaw, I. (ed) 2000. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt.

Taylor, J.H. 2001. Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt

Wilson, H. People of the pharaohs: from peasant to courtier.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

A message from another ex-volunteer, Sally Fung

This summer’s Olympic Games were such a success thanks in a large part to thousands of people who gave up their time and volunteered to do all manner of jobs. The volunteers that I saw in London were brilliant and they really made sure everyone had a wonderful time.  I’m sure that they made many friends and learned a few new skills. What have the Olympic Games to do with the Egypt Centre I can hear you ask? The answer is, they both need volunteers.
The Egypt Centre runs a well organised volunteer programme of which I was lucky enough to be a part of. I hadn’t worked for eight years as I had been a stay-at-home mum and I needed to get back to at least part time, if not full time work. Unfortunately being off work for such a long time had left me very unconfident. I also did not have any recent references I could put down if I applied for work and no recent experience.  I was looking for volunteering opportunities and through County of Swansea’s, Swansea Council Volunteer Service, I found that the Egypt Centre needed people. 
I started in March 2010 as an Education Assistant. I didn’t know anything about ancient Egypt when I started, nor had I had much experience at working with school parties, but I had support from the staff, both paid and other volunteers, and I soon began to feel my confidence return, so much so I trained as an Educational Leader.  With the training, the different Master Classes and my own study I soon learned new skills, such as dealing with groups of people of various ages, talking to people about the Collection, making resources, and developing a passion for ancient history, as well as having a lot of fun and making very good friends. I went on to help and then lead the holiday workshops for children. It was through my volunteering with the Egypt Centre that I decided I would like to retrain and do educational work with children. I studied at FE College and attained a Diploma in Teaching Assistant work. This summer I applied for a job in a Primary school as a Teaching Assistant and thanks to my volunteering at the Egypt Centre, and the help I received from the staff, I am now fully employed in a school as a Teaching Assistant helping children who struggle with Literacy and Numeracy.  It is a job that I love doing. 
So if you can give up a few hours a week to volunteer I would encourage you to do so. You could learn valuable transferrable skills that employers are looking for, experience at working in the Heritage/Education Sector, and make some really good friends.  I am so glad that I took the time and volunteered.

If you want to know more about adult volunteering at the Egypt Centre click here.