From London with Love (Mina Megalla, ITP 2023)

Written by Mina Megalla, Curator, Boyana Church Museum (Bulgaria, ITP 2023)

Greetings from London, my name is Mina Megalla, I am a curator at the Boyana Church Museum which is a part of the National History Museum in Sofia, Bulgaria. When I first learned about my selection to participate in the ITP 2023, I was thrilled and instantly thought of all the artefacts at the British Museum that I will lay my eyes on as well as all the possibilities and privileges of the programme. Let me tell you about one good example of those privileges, which is simply enjoying a wander around the empty galleries of the BM before the official opening hours every morning – this always leaves a smile on my face.

Additionally, I have been enjoying all the excellent tours of the galleries, storehouses, and different departments, especially when it’s being given by a group of the fantastic experts of the British Museum. One learns so much about all the work conducted behind closed doors in order to keep this paramount institution functioning right.

Trinity College Cambridge

Today I enjoyed a field trip to Cambridge with my colleague and friend Twana from Iraq. We are both archaeologists and are based at the Middle East department. There we met with Zeina Klink-Hoppe, the curator from the same department, who kindly took us on a wonderful tour around the different colleges and museums of Cambridge. I loved the Fitzwilliam Museum in particular for the way the objects are displayed, as well as Trinity College structures. I got to meet two of my old colleagues and friends too. Later we went punting and I tried that myself but without much success!

I think my favourite artefacts in general are those that engage you in a conversation with yourself and make you wonder and ask questions, hence, one artefact that did that to me is a fragment of a pottery (calyx-krater) with a woman depicted suckling an infant. She has a wrinkled forehead and a tired face with an expression of anxiety holding the edge of her dress in her teeth to cover her right breast while the infant presses with his right arm around her left bare breast. It is definitely different from the usual depictions of a mother and her child as in the portrayals of Isis and Osiris or Mary and the child Jesus. This made me wonder, was she the mother of the infant? Or just a nursing slave as her costume indicates her background. In fact, this piece is very similar to the artefact that was selected for the ‘object in focus’ project by our colleagues at the Middle East department.

A fragment of a red-figured calyx-krater depicting a woman in Phrygian costume suckling an infant

The next entry in this blog will be from my colleague Nguyen Hai Ninh from Vietnam. He is the Head of Museum Management and Information Bureau, Department of Cultural Heritage, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. Ninh is a very active person who loves to explore museums and landmarks and I look forward to reading about his experience so far.