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Friday, 24 November 2017

Notes from the curator 24.11.17

Notes from the curator 24.11.17

It seems a bit mad here. That’s the refrain, one I also hear from elsewhere in the University, so we are not alone.

Lauren who runs our shop, held her annual Christmas Gift Shop sale on 16th and 17th November with 10% off exclusively for staff and students. This was very successful with lots of goodies bought! We would like to thank you all for your continued support as every purchase in our gift shop helps support our museum!

We continue to work around the construction in the Taliesin and have school parties visit. We are fully booked up until Christmas, a good thing, but puts pressure on a need for well-trained volunteers and especially ones who are available outside University term time. Term-time is slightly  easier because of student volunteer availability. Standards are expected even from volunteers, and ours are marvellous! Success is difficult J

Our volunteers and staff have won several awards. Again! First for the Out of School Hours Awards. The Young Egyptologist Workshop staff were shortlisted in the Learning Outside the Classroom Innovator category in the national Awards for Outstanding Contribution to Learning Outside the Classroom (LOtC). The awards recognise those people who have had a significant impact on the lives of children and young people through their commitment to providing exciting and inspiring learning outside the classroom (LOtC) opportunities.

Since January 2002, The Egypt Centre has been running the Young Egyptologist workshops for children who would not normally visit a museum, let alone one on a university campus! 14 children each month are offered a place on the Young Egyptologist 2-day fun-packed course. Schools from Community First Areas, with a high number of children who are disadvantaged socially or economically, are targeted which supports the Welsh Government’s Anti-Poverty agenda.
The workshops were used as an example of good practice of tacking social injustice as a case study by Baroness K. Andrews, Culture and Poverty: Harnessing the Power of the Arts, Culture and Heritage to Promote Social Justice in Wales. The museum aims to break down barriers that hinder such children taking part and so provide transport to collect the children from school and return them and also provide a buffet-style ‘party’ lunch for each child.

The two-day workshop is free of charge and children get a coloured folder of their completed work, a photograph of their group dressed up as ancient Egyptians, and all art and craft materials are provided by the museum. The course aims to motivate children to foster a love of learning, to increase self-esteem and confidence through a greater sense of achievement, as well as developing literacy and numeracy skills. ‌

The museum’s child/teacher evaluation shows that self-esteem is built and many children have made repeat visits with family members to show off their knowledge. Children gain skills as well as gaining knowledge of the subject of ancient Egypt. The culmination of the course is the Award Ceremony to which teachers, family and friends of the children are invited to see the children being presented with a certificate of their achievement. Each child has their ‘moment of glory’ and schools have reported that the children’s attitude to learning was transformed with an increase in motivation and attention and the quality of the children’s work improved. The impact has seen children volunteering at the museum, going into higher education and being the first in their family to gain a degree and move away from Swansea.

Our workshops staff includes a Leader and three Workshop Assistants, some of whom have learning disabilities.

And then there’s the Diana Awards.  Given out in Diana, Princess of Wales’ name, the award is presented to young role models who are selflessly helping to transform the lives of others, going above and beyond to make a positive change in the world. As a result of their dedicated work, eight of the museum volunteers, together with Syd, the volunteer manager, travelled to Cardiff to receive the Diana Champion Volunteer award from Rt. Hon Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales. We are incredibly proud of our volunteers.

And on some other good news Wendy, the assistant curator, got a really nice email from another museum whom she’d helped with advice. This resulted in them getting a grant for a project. It is so nice when people say thank you rather than just taking your ideas and taking the credit. So thanks for thanking us. It gives us a lift.

I have been taking pictures of artefacts for a book on daemons in the Egypt Centre. We have several lurking!  Taking decent pictures of them has been taking more time than I thought. For the ancient Egyptians daemons weren’t quite the same as what some of us moderns might expect. Daemons could be either good or bad, they were very similar to the dead, and… well you’ll have to read the book if it’s ever finished. One of the most popular daemons then and also popular with our volunteers was Bes who looked after women and children and was connected with sexuality and the solar. This bandy-legged, leonine creature was often depicted with a sticking out tongue. He apparently liked to party, or at least is often shown celebrating, playing a hand-drum and dancing.

The daemon publication is intended to be for both the general public and for academics. When we take on projects we try to cover as many of our core functions as possible, ours being widening participation (getting as many as possible involved in the university), preventative conservation and education (education in its widest sense, not just learning skills and facts). Of course sometimes these things contradict one another, for example widening participation includes allowing as much access as possible to the collection to all, including handling and that goes against preventative conservation. But then, in order to keep objects safe they would need to be kept in the dark in environmentally controlled conditions rather than not put on display.

A sort of aside but related. Several years ago we had a lady in who wanted to free the souls of the deceased who ‘haunted’ the objects in the Egypt Centre. So, with widening participation in mind we decided she should be allowed access to the store to carry out her wishes. A few incantations later and she went away happy.

And up and coming, Saturday we have our Murder Mystery masterminded by Sam, our education officer. The outline of the story being: it’s 1922 and Henry Wellcome has just discovered a new tomb of a previously unknown Pharaoh with rare and beautiful artefacts now destined for display at the grand opening of his new museum. As the archaeological team and their honoured guest gather to celebrate their historic discovery and the upcoming opening of the new museum, a mysterious death shatters the evening’s festivities!
Did Henry Wellcome discover more than a long lost tomb?
Could this be the Pharaohs Curse?
A fun packed evening, we hope.

While this news update seems to have much to do with daemons and the dead, I want to say loudly- the Egypt Centre is not scary. Please visit. Yes the things belonged to long dead people, and a lot of our stuff is from tombs (much food for an ethics debate). But as is often said, it’s the living you need to fear.