Norhan Hassan Salem, The Egyptian Museum, Egypt: Summer Programme review

Norhan Hassan Salem, Assistant Registrar, The Egyptian Museum, Egypt

The dream came true!! Let me express my feelings about joining as a fellow on the International Training Programme in its eleventh year. No, the words can’t describe the feeling sometimes! I am extremely excited and happy!

The story began in December 2012.  It was my first week working at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and I attended a presentation by a colleague working at the same museum called Marwa and she was talking about her experience as a fellow on the ITP 2012. I felt impressed, excited and interested all at once when I saw her presentation and I wished that one day that the chance could be mine.  This year it happened and I am here on the ITP 2017, with other two lovely Egyptian colleagues Heba and Mariem.  And I think that I am really lucky because this is my first time to be out of my country and I have come to the UK.

London is a nice town, so practical and informal, I like the way of life here.  The people seem to be the most simple of all.  Most of them cycle to work, they are dressed in smart but casual clothes and generally have very comfortable manners. I noticed also since the first day when I went to do some shopping that the prices here in the UK are very varied, some things are so cheap and others have a very high cost!

I could not wait until we started our work at the British Museum on the first Monday so after I arrived in London on Saturday I went, at night, to see the Museum – I could not even wait for the end of the weekend!  It is really a very special Museum and it has an impressive variety of collections. I was looking forward to seeing the Rosetta Stone in the Egyptian gallery, a master piece in the BM.  In the Egyptian Museum we have a copy – but here, I have tried many times to take even one photo with it and I cannot do it because of the crowds!

The training is hard and compressed but it is so useful, interesting and nice, especially the departmental times and the training sessions on exhibitions, loans, heritage and interpretation.  And we also go out with the ITP team every Saturday to places like Kew Gardens, the Shard, Kenwood House and we had a lovely English tea with Frances Carey in Hampstead Heath.  And we still find time to go out alone to visit some other London sites like Kensington Palace, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum.

As a department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, we (Heba, Mariem, El-Nazeer, Haitham and I) visited the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology where the curators specially opened the cases of the storage for the cartonnage for me as I am a specialist in this area.  They were really very helpful and lovely – we enjoyed an unforgettable day with them.

The group of fellows live in Schafer House together in a warm atmosphere.  Even though we are of different nationalities and we haven’t known each other for long, we are one big family. Together our mission this year is to cooperate, to have some fun and create new relationships and friendships together. We had a party and traditional dance event at the kitchen of our on the first weekend of the programme and we all got to know each other that day. I was the organiser!

My partner museum was Bristol Museum Art Gallery, so I travelled to Bristol by train with my lovely group partners, Zulkifli from Malaysia, Beimote from Nigeria and Guo from China.  Bristol, is a Roman city, a city of paintings and fine art which I heard about a long time before I came.  The people in Bristol are so lovely and the weather is completely different to London.

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Me in front of Bristol Cathedral

In Bristol we started our training in the storerooms, the basement, the conservation labs and the temporary exhibitions’ gallery.  We then presented our introductory presentations to the staff of the museum and we discussed a lot of topics and issues in our home institutions.