Cultural Continuity Through the British Museum (Bassem Mohammed Ezzat, ITP 2018, Egypt)

Written by Bassem Mohammed Ezzat, ITP 2018

First Impressions of My Department

I am an archaeologist and photographer at the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM). My ITP departmental time is with the Ancient Egypt and Sudan Department, where I was eager to have a tour when I visited the museum for the first time, especially to see Mohamed Salah’s – or Mo Salah ‘The Egyptian King’, like the British people like to say – boots which are on temporary display in the British Museum’s Egyptian collection next to a pair of ancient Egyptian sandals.

This display aims to link the history and identity of ancient Egypt to our modern time which is one of the cultural continuity methods that the British Museum delivers for its audiences.

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Me with Mohamed Salah’s boots

Department Activity and Colleagues

On Thursday (5 July), the ITP fellows of the Ancient Egypt and Sudan Department went together with the fellows of the Middle East department for a day trip to Blythe House where the British Museum textile collections are stored. I considered it the best day of the ITP programme so far. I used to be a curator at the Egyptian Textile Museum for 3 years and I am interested in textile history, methods of storing and display and the story of the object, and this visit provided me with a great opportunity to enhance my knowledge about those fields of material culture within diverse contexts.

Afghanistan rug

Looking at the rug from Afghanistan

I was surprised by the variety of textile objects, especially the war rug from Afghanistan that shows its modern history and depicts the conflict of Soviet invasion. Also, the British Museum employs another aspect of cultural continuity by displaying textiles that show techniques connecting modern textiles with older ones, telling a story to attract visitors.

My colleagues and I got a great background in Palestinian textiles with OmarJoseph Nasser-Khoury (ITP 2013) and took a deep look at the different garment collections and the embroidery techniques with diverse types of fabrics.


Rema and I discovering the materials used for mounting textile objects

Because we both have a textile background, my colleague Rema Zeynalova and I were given a samples of the materials used for mounting the textile objects in the display while attending a short workshop by Helen Wolfe (Collections Manager: Textiles) who showed us the display methods for textiles in the British Museum.