An Ashmolean Adventure (Rana Ramadan, ITP 2018, Egypt)

I’m Rana Ramadan, Egyptian ITP Fellow 2018, and Curator at the Alexandria National Museum. Today I am writing my blog about the 4th week of the ITP summer programme, which started with moving to Oxford with my colleagues Amalia Kakissis (Archivist, British School at Athens) and Sarah Elsheekh (Curator, NCAM, Sudan), for our ITP Partner Placement at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford.

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It was my first time visiting the city of Oxford and I was really excited! My first impressions: it’s neat, quiet and has a special spirit. I liked how relaxed it is with a lot of good ice-cream places!

It was such a great opportunity to have our placement at the Ashmolean, one of the most important museums in the UK. I was fascinated by the galleries and special exhibitions, the showcases and how they display objects, especially in the Egyptian gallery, where they have unique artefacts dated to ancient Egypt.

It was a fruitful week in which I learned even more about displaying, exhibitions and how to create successful exhibitions starting from very simple ideas and then working with various teams to produce a great, lovely story for the public that stays with them. In addition to having a tour of the Ashmolean conservation studio with Alexandra Baldwin, we got to see how some objects were being worked on like the (now historic) plaster casts of marble busts, and the cleaning and restoration of the textiles that will be used in the new upcoming exhibition Spellbound: Magic, Ritual & Witchcraft, opening at the end of August. We also had a tour in the Department of Antiquities storerooms, gaining experience in safely storing objects, and with the opportunity to see many objects related to different regions and of different materials like wood, marble, textiles, pottery, ivory and glass.

My colleagues and I also met the Director of the Ashmolean Museum, Dr Xa Sturgis, who was very welcoming and gave us good background information about the museum and our goals of being there.

We also had a session in the Educational Centre with Jo Rice on how promote learning for kids and adults through many interesting programmes and activities. Finally we visited the Oxford University Museum of Natural History which is a fantastic museum, so interesting! I liked the dinosaur skeletons and dodos the most and the visit was particularly special as this was the first time I got to see REAL dinosaur skeletons!

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Since we had a proper English rainy weekend we needed to find some fun indoor activities and so went to Chastleton House and Garden outside Oxford. It ended up being an amazing day in this unique house which has been preserved as it was and not repaired at all when it was given to the National Trust in 1991. Chastleton has many amazing stories but one of the most famous is of an episode from the English Civil War in which a loyal wife saved her husband by hiding him in a secret room within her bedroom and when the soldiers came to looking for him, she drugged their wine so they fell asleep and he was able to escape!

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It was such a fruitful week in the majestic city of Oxford with its long rich history, impressive architecture and learned atmosphere. Thanks to ITP for granting us this experience!