Anna Garnett & Campbell Price: swapping rainy England for sunny Aswan
Anna Garnett, Curator, Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology and Campbell Price, Curator of Egypt and Sudan, Manchester Museum
Whizzing through Cairo Airport at top speed in a golf buggy is a very exciting way to kick off an ITP event. Alas, the buggy wasn’t fast enough – and we missed our connecting flight to Aswan. This gave us (along with Jane Batty and Stuart Frost, British Museum) a chance to talk about our expectations for the workshop. Neither Jane or Stuart had been to Egypt before, so were interested to know more about our experiences in the field in Egypt and in museums.
Although our delay meant we only caught a few hours sleep, we were really excited to meet Fellow Facilitators Jackline Besigye (Uganda National Museum), Huzoor Choudhury (Huzoor Designs, India) and Vandana Prapanna (CSMVS, Mumbai). Together we set out for a first look at the Nubian Museum. Aswan is still very hot in October, so the galleries’ air conditioning was a welcome respite from the (very!) short walk from our hotel.
We had both been to the Nubian Museum before but not for several years. It struck us both how fresh the displays appeared – a perfect venue for discussion about interpreting Egyptian and Sudanese collections. We were extremely fortunate to have been given a private guided tour of the public galleries and behind the scenes spaces by the Director, Hosny Adb el Rheem. This was a very special opportunity to situate ourselves in the concept of the museum – the building, grounds, and philosophy – from a personal perspective. The collections are brought to life by a series of models – a really effective tool to engage visitors in the historical and archaeological context. The way the Museum presents the representation of living Nubian culture – particularly surrounding issues of displacement – was striking.
Our group were impressed by the award-winning architecture of the Museum, which is sympathetic to local building traditions. Effective use is made of outside spaces, including a reconstruction of a traditional Nubian House, an immersive cave incorporating relocated rock art, and a sweeping amphitheatre space for major public performances.
It is clear that the Museum actively engages younger audiences, and we witnessed the products of creative workshops for school groups. These really responded to the Museum’s collection, and the enthusiasm of the staff who designed and delivered the session was apparent. Vividly colourful murals brightened the learning spaces – some of which we look forward to using in the coming days.
Displays demonstrated a clear chronological structure, with a very dramatic and atmospheric lighting. Individual pieces were beautifully lit and created accessible highlights for the visitor throughout the museum. Material ranges from Prehistoric stone tools to decorative Islamic horse equipment, illustrating the richness and diversity of cultural collections from the area.
The Nubian Museum is ideally placed to explore issues surrounding Egyptian, Nubian and Sudanese heritage. It is the perfect venue for this ITP+ workshop, building on relationships forged through the ITP’s summer programmes. After several happy years working with the ITP, and acting as UK hosts, it is a special pleasure to be able to meet colleagues in this setting. We both cannot wait to get started!