Girls’ day out to the new Egyptology gallery at the Atkinson, Southport

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A large information panel on a wall with photos of the artefacts when they were previously displayed

Friday, 24 October 2014 – the opening of the new Egyptology gallery at The Atkinson in Southport, and a date which had been in my diary since it had been announced.

 

Southport is only a 25-minute ride on the local Merseyrail train service for me, so with my three-year-old in tow (my girls are beautifully enthusiastic about museum visits!) and camera with a full charge and a clean memory card, we hopped on the train then made the three-minute walk from Southport station to the Atkinson.

 

The venue

The building is Victorian, limestone, with a large arched covered entrance with glass doors going into the building. There are small, round porthole-like windows on the first floor

The Atkinson lives in a purpose-built 19th-century building in Lord Street, the main shopping street in Southport. Inside, it’s a well-managed mixture of 19th-century staircases and stained-glass panels alongside clean, modern partitions and furniture.

 

To get to the Egyptology gallery on the second floor, you can go up the grand staircase or, as we chose to, take the see-through lift (always exciting for the wee ones).

 

The gallery is right next to the lift, and the corridor leading to it has a lovely wall display (pictured above) showing you photos of the collection when it was previously on display in Bootle.

 

The collection’s history

The collection was amassed during the late 19th century by Ann Goodison, an Egyptophile married to George Goodison, after whom Everton FC’s stadium is named. She displayed her collection of around 1,000 artefacts in her home in Waterloo, in the north of Liverpool, but when she died, her husband – not so enthusiastic about ancient Egypt – sold the collection on, where it found its way to Bootle museum (also on the north side of Liverpool).

 

The collection was put into storage when Bootle museum shut down in 1974, until it found its new place as a permanent exhibition at the Atkinson this year.

 

The gallery

The gallery itself has been put together beautifully. The room – square in shape – is not particularly large, but the space has been used to great effect.

 

Partitioning has been used to create a corridor around the outside with an open area in the centre, and display cases embedded in the walls. Charcoal-grey wall coverings and a lovely Egyptian cobra frieze gives it a real tomb-like feel.

 

Part of the gallery with people standing and looking at display cases A man standing and looking in a display case

 

Although the room has low lighting, the display cases are well lit (a boon for those of us with cameras!).

 

The walls are embellished with information panels, some of which have reproductions of Egyptian scenes. Other information panels are contained in cartouche-shaped frames.

 

One of the information panels on the wall, telling visitors about Egyptian rituals A cartouche-shaped information panel talking about paddle dolls

 

For the children

As well as being an excellent museum buddy, bringing my three-year-old along meant I could see how child-friendly the gallery is. I was confident that the exhibition designers would have thought of the younger generation, as The Atkinson does put on a lot of events for children and families.

 

We certainly weren’t disappointed.

 

The display cases were set at a very reasonable height – being only a few inches out of reach for a three-year-old will mean they’re accessible for most children (and for visitors using wheelchairs).

 

A young girl looking at a section of coffin The young girl looking up at a coffin lid which is stood up on its end The young girl standing and looking at a wrapped mummy

 

There is also a children’s corner, with a desk containing four different spices used in ancient Egypt to smell, colouring in and dressing up, including a rather fabulous lady’s wig.

 

The young girl sitting at a desk, drawing on some paper

 

The pièce de résistance, however, is the interactive wall. The wall is beautifully constructed, with hieroglyphic inscriptions cut out and mirrors behind. There are a handful of hieroglyphs which have the pieces to fit back in, and when you do, they set off audio and video pieces showing you information such as how the Egyptians put their eye makeup on.

 

Shot of an information video telling visitors about cosmetics

 

My little one had a whale of a time putting the hieroglyphs into their places and taking them out again. (And I think the staff were pleased to see how well it was being received; she was the youngest visitor there at the time.)

 

The young girl playing with the hieroglyph shapes on a wall

 

For the grownups

There are a lot of interesting and beautiful pieces on display. Here’s a selection for you to feast your eyes upon.

 

Coffin panels

The long panel belonged to a lady of unknown name; she was a Singer of Amun and Lady of the House (a title given to married women).

 

The second panel is unusual in that it shows Horus overseeing the weighing of the heart instead of Anubis.

 

Both pieces are from the 21st Dynasty. The paintwork and style of decoration look very similar on the two pieces; however, one or two differences, such as the friezes along the top make me think they don’t come from the same coffin.

 

The left end of the coffin panel. It is covered with images of gods and hieroglyphs The left end of the coffin panel. It is covered with images of gods and hieroglyphs
The middle section of the coffin panel, covered in images of gods and hieroglyphs The middle section of the coffin panel, covered in images of gods and hieroglyphs
The right end of the coffin panel, also covered in images of gods and hieroglyphs The right end of the coffin panel, also covered in images of gods and hieroglyphs
A coffin panel similar to the others, with gods, the deceased person and lots of hieroglyphs A coffin panel similar to the others, with gods, the deceased person and lots of hieroglyphs

 

Coffin lid

This coffin lid comes from Thebes and belonged to an unknown lady from the late 25th or early 26th Dynasty (the full-length photo is in the For the children section above).

 

The top portion of the coffin lid, with a gilded human face, wearing a long wig with a feathered headdress painted on. Her shoulders are covered in rows of coloured patterns

Coffin lid of an unknown Theban lady, late 25th or early 26th Dynasty

The top portion of the coffin lid, with a gilded human face, wearing a long wig with a feathered headdress painted on. Her shoulders are covered in rows of coloured patterns
The inside of the lid is plain white, except for the figure of Nut - a woman wearing a close-fitting dress, red from the waist down. The top of the dress is white and formed of straps that go up over her shoulders. She has long, black hair and wears bands around her upper arms, wrists and ankles

The inside of the lid has the goddess Nut, a standard part of coffin decoration

The inside of the lid is plain white, except for the figure of Nut - a woman wearing a close-fitting dress, red from the waist down. The top of the dress is white and formed of straps that go up over her shoulders. She has long, black hair and wears bands around her upper arms, wrists and ankles
The central part of the outside of the coffin lid. Ra has a ram's head, outstretched wings and has decorations surrounding him

This detail shows Ra in his ram-headed form, which he assumed when taking his nighttime journey through the Duat

The central part of the outside of the coffin lid. Ra has a ram's head, outstretched wings and has decorations surrounding him

 

Mummy of Nes-Amun

Nes-Amun lived during the 21st Dynasty and held the titles Priest of Amun, Scribe of divine supplies at the temple of Amun at Thebes and Superintendent of construction. (On loan from the World Museum, Liverpool.)

The wrapped mummy is lying out in a glass case in the centre of the room

 

Tomb and funerary goods

A rectangular, glass-fronted case on the wall, with larger funerary items - many of them are pots and jars

One of the display cases containing items found in tombs

A rectangular, glass-fronted case on the wall, with larger funerary items - many of them are pots and jars
A small model of a man with a short, black wig, wearing a white kilt. He is sitting down with his hands in front of him (where he would originally have had an oar in his hands)

A boat rower from a Middle Kingdom model boat

A small model of a man with a short, black wig, wearing a white kilt. He is sitting down with his hands in front of him (where he would originally have had an oar in his hands)
An oval, shallow bowl with offerings, which are part of the pottery itself.

An 11th Dynasty pottery offering tray, complete with pottering offerings such as a bound ox, bread and fruit

An oval, shallow bowl with offerings, which are part of the pottery itself.
The lid is damaged, but has the face remaining. It is possibly of a man, carved out of the surface

An unusual-looking lid from a Canopic jar, New Kingdom

The lid is damaged, but has the face remaining. It is possibly of a man, carved out of the surface
The base of the cone, round in shape, with hieroglyphs in a raised relief, in rows. There is a small portion lost at the bottom right of the cone

A funerary cone from the tomb of Mery (18th Dynasty, Thebes)

The base of the cone, round in shape, with hieroglyphs in a raised relief, in rows. There is a small portion lost at the bottom right of the cone
The sandals, are, in fact, completely flat (no straps) and have feet painted on them in a pale red colour

A pair of cartonnage mummy sandals from c.300 BC

The sandals, are, in fact, completely flat (no straps) and have feet painted on them in a pale red colour
A square, glass-fronted display case on the wall. The case contains several items including a Canopic jar and mummy-bead networks. A young girl is in front of the case, craning her neck to see into the case

A display case with funerary goods

A square, glass-fronted display case on the wall. The case contains several items including a Canopic jar and mummy-bead networks. A young girl is in front of the case, craning her neck to see into the case
A network of beads designed to sit around the shoulders of a mummy. Most of it is a loose network of long, thin blue beads. The neck is made of smaller, more densely strung beads, as are two panels of decoration on the front

A stunning and intricate mummy bead network, dating to around the Third Intermediate Period or the Late Period

A network of beads designed to sit around the shoulders of a mummy. Most of it is a loose network of long, thin blue beads. The neck is made of smaller, more densely strung beads, as are two panels of decoration on the front
The scarab is black in colour, with yellow wings decorated in black and red. The wings are attached to the scarab with wire (?)

A faience winged scarab amulet, dating to the Third Intermediate Period or Late Period

The scarab is black in colour, with yellow wings decorated in black and red. The wings are attached to the scarab with wire (?)
The Canopic jar is a tall bowl shape; the lid is in the shape of a baboon's head. There is a square panel of hieroglyphs inscribed down the front of the jar

A travertine Canopic jar of Hapy, which belonged to Ahmose and dates to the early New Kingdom

The Canopic jar is a tall bowl shape; the lid is in the shape of a baboon's head. There is a square panel of hieroglyphs inscribed down the front of the jar
The two figures are a couple of inches tall and made from small, coloured bead. They're both mummiform, one human and one jackal-headed

Two faience beadwork Sons of Horus (Imsety on the left, Duamutef on the right)

The two figures are a couple of inches tall and made from small, coloured bead. They're both mummiform, one human and one jackal-headed
A human-headed bird with a sun disc on the head and outstretched wings. The right wing is broken with approximately half missing. The statue is decorated with black and red paint

A wooden ba-bird statue from the 25th Dynasty

A human-headed bird with a sun disc on the head and outstretched wings. The right wing is broken with approximately half missing. The statue is decorated with black and red paint
The shabti is a few inches tall, made of blue faience with hieroglyphs in black ink written over the bottom half

A royal shabti from the 25th Dynasty. The piece is mounted in front of a mirror so visitors can see the back

The shabti is a few inches tall, made of blue faience with hieroglyphs in black ink written over the bottom half
Only the outer linen wrapping are visible. The cat's face has been recreated at the top, and the body wrappings have a spiral pattern to them

A cat mummy, dating to the first century BC

Only the outer linen wrapping are visible. The cat's face has been recreated at the top, and the body wrappings have a spiral pattern to them
A rectangular piece of wood with a small neck, with a large number of strings of beads hung over the neck

A paddle doll; although this doll looks Predynastic, it's from the Middle Kingdom. Their purpose is unclear, but may be related to fertility and rebirth after death

A rectangular piece of wood with a small neck, with a large number of strings of beads hung over the neck
The top part is rectangular with a neck coming out of the top. The bottom has two sets of beads on strings

A Middle Kingdom paddle doll

The top part is rectangular with a neck coming out of the top. The bottom has two sets of beads on strings

 

Texts, inscriptions and writing

A small rectangular fragment, the writing is badly faded and quite difficult to see in places. The writing is in black ink, in large, bold letters

A papyrus fragment with Coptic text

A small rectangular fragment, the writing is badly faded and quite difficult to see in places. The writing is in black ink, in large, bold letters
The box is rectangular and black in colour. The lid is partially removed to show the remains of pigment inside. The fragment of palette is rectangular, with hieroglyphs carved into the top. The reed pens are long and thin, four in number, and in a slightly damaged case

A box containing paints (Coptic Period), a fragment of a scribal palette with the cartouche of Amenhotep III, and a scribe's palette with reed pens (New Kingdom)

The box is rectangular and black in colour. The lid is partially removed to show the remains of pigment inside. The fragment of palette is rectangular, with hieroglyphs carved into the top. The reed pens are long and thin, four in number, and in a slightly damaged case
A small square of white plaster with hieroglyphs carved down in columns. There are traces of colour left inside the hieroglyphs

A fragment of carved and painted plaster, dating to the Ptolemaic Period

A small square of white plaster with hieroglyphs carved down in columns. There are traces of colour left inside the hieroglyphs
A smallish stela, with the top right portion broken off. It's crudely carved, with a man in a long kilt standing in adoration before a seated Osiris. The remains of a boat can be seen at the top of the broken part. There is a short hieroglyphic inscription above the figures. There is some remaining colour

A New Kingdom stela of an unknown man

A smallish stela, with the top right portion broken off. It's crudely carved, with a man in a long kilt standing in adoration before a seated Osiris. The remains of a boat can be seen at the top of the broken part. There is a short hieroglyphic inscription above the figures. There is some remaining colour
A mid-sized, round-topped rectangular stela covered in hieroglyphs. The surface is damaged and lost in the bottom left portion. There are two men carved down the left-hand side, both wearing typical New Kingdom attire of large, pleated kilts and tops

A New Kingdom stela of a man called Amenhotep and his son Piay

A mid-sized, round-topped rectangular stela covered in hieroglyphs. The surface is damaged and lost in the bottom left portion. There are two men carved down the left-hand side, both wearing typical New Kingdom attire of large, pleated kilts and tops
A tall, narrow, stylised temple entrance with two falcons with sun discs atop their heads standing on a large djed pillar. Nearly all of it is covered in cursive hieroglyphs

The central detail on the stela of Amenhotep and Piay, showing two divine falcons atop a djed-pillar

A tall, narrow, stylised temple entrance with two falcons with sun discs atop their heads standing on a large djed pillar. Nearly all of it is covered in cursive hieroglyphs
The fragment looks to be the top right corner of a limestone stela with some hieroglyphs, the heads of two people (the bodies being lost below the break) and a large eye of Horus

A fragment of a Late Period stela, still with some traces of red paint

The fragment looks to be the top right corner of a limestone stela with some hieroglyphs, the heads of two people (the bodies being lost below the break) and a large eye of Horus
At the top has part of a hieroglyphic inscription; the bottom half has part of a standing man wearing a kilt with some hieroglyphs inscribed next to him

A fragment of an inscription from the Second Intermediate Period

At the top has part of a hieroglyphic inscription; the bottom half has part of a standing man wearing a kilt with some hieroglyphs inscribed next to him
A very small fragment of stone with the hieroglyphs etched into the surface

A fragment of an inscription on basalt

A very small fragment of stone with the hieroglyphs etched into the surface
A very small fragment of stone with the remains of two cartouches carved on it. There is no colour

An inscription bearing early names of the Aten contained in cartouches

A very small fragment of stone with the remains of two cartouches carved on it. There is no colour

 

Statue of a seated couple

A seated man and woman; they are sitting next to each other and the woman has her hand on the man's shoulder. The statue is damaged; nothing remains of the woman above her waist, except the part of her arm resting on her husband. The man's head and right shoulder are blackened, the rest of the statue being a pale-coloured stone

An unidentified seated couple from the 18th Dynasty, on loan from the Manchester Museum. The blackening on the man's head may be due to fire damage

A seated man and woman; they are sitting next to each other and the woman has her hand on the man's shoulder. The statue is damaged; nothing remains of the woman above her waist, except the part of her arm resting on her husband. The man's head and right shoulder are blackened, the rest of the statue being a pale-coloured stone
The seam runs down the centre of her skirt, with diagonal lines representing stitching

The delicately carved seam on the woman's dress

The seam runs down the centre of her skirt, with diagonal lines representing stitching
A closeup of the feet and lower legs of the woman. Her toes are carefully carved and have a few small traces of dark red paint

Traces of paint still on the feet of the woman

A closeup of the feet and lower legs of the woman. Her toes are carefully carved and have a few small traces of dark red paint

 

Personal adornment and daily life

A square-shaped, glass-fronted case on the wall with an assortment of bead necklaces and amulets. In front of the case stands a young girl, on tiptoe, craning her neck to see into the case

'Mummy, mummy, I found necklaces!'

A square-shaped, glass-fronted case on the wall with an assortment of bead necklaces and amulets. In front of the case stands a young girl, on tiptoe, craning her neck to see into the case
The palettes are large, flat pieces of siltstone. They are shaped approximately to the animals they represent, but are devoid of any extra decoration or patterning

Two Predynastic siltstone palettes in the shape of a bird and a fish

The palettes are large, flat pieces of siltstone. They are shaped approximately to the animals they represent, but are devoid of any extra decoration or patterning
Three glass jars, all with small, bowl-shaped bases and long, slender necks. Two are plain glass and the third is dark green. None has any patterning

Roman Period glassware

Three glass jars, all with small, bowl-shaped bases and long, slender necks. Two are plain glass and the third is dark green. None has any patterning
The mirror itself is circular, but has lost its reflectiveness, the surface being quite scratched and a little dented in places. It has a handle, at the top of which are protruding, downturned extensions

A bronze mirror from the New Kingdom

The mirror itself is circular, but has lost its reflectiveness, the surface being quite scratched and a little dented in places. It has a handle, at the top of which are protruding, downturned extensions
The headrest is made entirely of wood, with a semi-circular top for resting the head, a neck and a rectangular base. There are some hieroglyphs carved in a column down the middle of the neck

A wooden headrest from Thebes, 13th Dynasty

The headrest is made entirely of wood, with a semi-circular top for resting the head, a neck and a rectangular base. There are some hieroglyphs carved in a column down the middle of the neck
The pair on the left are light brown, with thin straps to go over the top of the foot and between the first two toes. The pair on the right are dark brown, flip-flop-like in design with patterns embossed around the edge of the foot and on top of the thong

Two pairs of leather shoes (First Intermediate Period on the left, Late Period on the right)

The pair on the left are light brown, with thin straps to go over the top of the foot and between the first two toes. The pair on the right are dark brown, flip-flop-like in design with patterns embossed around the edge of the foot and on top of the thong
A pair of dark brown leather shoes, slightly pointed at the toe and with a faint band of pattern across the top

Coptic Period leather shoes

A pair of dark brown leather shoes, slightly pointed at the toe and with a faint band of pattern across the top
A flat base of a sandal made from wide pieces of grass woven in a criss-cross pattern

18th Dynasty woven grass sandal

A flat base of a sandal made from wide pieces of grass woven in a criss-cross pattern
The double-juglet has two, tall-necked, round-based jars, joined at the top and widest part of the bowls. The mat is round and weaved in a spiral pattern

An 18th Dynasty double juglet, found at Abydos but originally from Cyprus carrying traded goods (left). On the right is a New Kingdom woven basket lid

The double-juglet has two, tall-necked, round-based jars, joined at the top and widest part of the bowls. The mat is round and weaved in a spiral pattern
A small square of yellowed fabric with a fish stitched in a deep red. The fish has a small amount of decoration on it

A woven fish from the Coptic Period

A small square of yellowed fabric with a fish stitched in a deep red. The fish has a small amount of decoration on it
A small, black frame containing the bodies of two samples of beetle found in Egypt. One is small and brown in colour, the other large and black (the scarab beetle). The beetles have their Latin names on handwritten notes beneath them

Two slightly more modern beetles (the scarab at the bottom). They still have the original handwritten labels.

A small, black frame containing the bodies of two samples of beetle found in Egypt. One is small and brown in colour, the other large and black (the scarab beetle). The beetles have their Latin names on handwritten notes beneath them

 

Tiny things

I really like how all these various amulets, scarabs and pieces of jewellery have been displayed in front of mirrors so we can see both sides of them.

A mirror mounted with a collection of amulets. There are 18 amulets in total, many scarab shaped

Three small scarab-shaped amulets mounted on a mirror, showing reflections of the backs, which have spiral patterns, stick figures and hieroglyphs

Overall impression

I won’t hesitate to say that I love the new gallery. It looks like a lot of thought has gone into it, and it’s wonderful to see such a lovely collection back out for us all to feast our eyes upon.

 

I particularly liked the information panels for the coffin fragments, which had reproductions of the decoration with the various gods, goddesses and people clearly labelled.

 

The only downside was that some of the information labels were scant on information, but I guess this may be because – as is often the case with pieces bought privately during the 19th century – they were found and sold on without a record of their provenance being made. Some of the other pieces had a lot of information, so I assume it’s that the information is missing, and not just having been omitted.

 

They’ve made very good use of the relatively small space available and catered well for the younger generation as well as the more grown up.

 

The Atkinson itself is an art centre, with temporary exhibitions, a theatre and lots of events. It’s well-serviced with facilities, including decent wheelchair access, a shop with locally made artwork (and now, of course, a good supply of Egypt-related goodies) and a very reasonably priced (and yummy) cafe. And who can complain when you can buy a cookie as big as your head?

A young girl sitting in a cafe with her face partially obscured by a large, round cookie

Head-sized cookie!

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