Opening day at the refurbished Garstang Museum

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A red-brick building set amongst grass and trees
The main entrance to the Garstang, via the Egyptology department round the back of Abercromby Square

Over the past couple of years, the Garstang Museum of Archaeology at the University of Liverpool has been going through a major redevelopment, including a move from its place on the first floor of 14 Abercromby Square, to the ground floor, where the old archaeology library used to be.

 

The museum is named after John Garstang, an archaeologist working in the first decades of the 20th century, particularly in Egypt and Near East.

 

He set up the Institute of Archaeology in Liverpool in 1904, and the archaeology departmental museum was named after him on the centenary of the establishment of his institute, in 2004.

 

Thursday 17 July 2014 was its official reopening; as an ex-student of the department, I couldn’t possibly miss out.

 

The first face I saw when I walked through the door was that of my old Masters buddy, Gina Laycock, who, as curator, has played a large part in the redesign of the museum.

 

After losing about 20 minutes catching up with Gina and my ex-lecturer Steven Snape (who is also Keeper of the museum), I went for an explore. And boy, was I impressed!

 

The first gallery

When I went into the first room, I was hit by how bright and fresh the gallery felt. Modern, clean lighting with beautifully designed information panels and photos on the walls, including a reproduction of John Garstang’s signature right at the entrance.

 

You see several themed display cases, including one full of memorabilia from Garstang’s digs and working history (see below).

 

There are some wonderful reproductions of tomb scenes and artefacts on the walls, and every display case is accompanied by a information panel, replete with clear and concise information about the theme of the contents.

 

Looking down a gallery with photos and information panels on the wall and three glass cases with artefacts in them

The first gallery. The museum entrance is to the left of the photo

Looking down a gallery with photos and information panels on the wall and three glass cases with artefacts in them
A lined notebook with hand-copied hieroglyphs and writing in a grey ink

One of Garstang's notebooks, with sketches of hieroglyphic inscriptions

A lined notebook with hand-copied hieroglyphs and writing in a grey ink
A low glass case with a collection of papers, labels, letters and a wooden box

A display case full of Garstang-related goodies

A low glass case with a collection of papers, labels, letters and a wooden box
Three horizontal registers with ancient Egyptian workers bringing animals and ritual offerings

A reproduction of a scene from the tomb of Rekhmire

Three horizontal registers with ancient Egyptian workers bringing animals and ritual offerings
A panel from the coffin with squares of patterns (wavy lines, checks, diamonds etc) with two large eyes in the centre of the upper half

Detail from the coffin of Userhat

A panel from the coffin with squares of patterns (wavy lines, checks, diamonds etc) with two large eyes in the centre of the upper half
A low glass case containing artefacts, with an information panel on the wall which includes a photo of a partially excavated human skeleton

A display case and information panel for the C-group in Nubia

A low glass case containing artefacts, with an information panel on the wall which includes a photo of a partially excavated human skeleton

 

Freestanding pieces

Moving on to the left of the first gallery, is a small room with some freestanding pieces, including an unusual double-sided stela and and a granite head of an unprovenanced (though probably 18th Dynasty) pharaoh.

 

I really liked the stand it’s been displayed on, which has allowed visitors to see both sides of the stela for the first time.

 

Two freestanding artefacts on pedestals - one is a carved stone head of a king, the other a carved limestone stela with the top corner broken off

Freestanding objects, including a double-sided Middle Kingdom stela from Abydos (Acc. No. E.30)

Two freestanding artefacts on pedestals - one is a carved stone head of a king, the other a carved limestone stela with the top corner broken off
A head from a statue carved in black granite. The head is of a king, wearing the nemes headdress with a uraeus on the front

Head of an unknown Pharaoh, probably from Karnak (Acc. No. E.2811)

A head from a statue carved in black granite. The head is of a king, wearing the nemes headdress with a uraeus on the front
A rectangular limestone stela with a large ankh in the middle, which has broken off around the top loop. The bottom left corner is also missing. There is a man carved, wearing a kilt, with his hands up in adoration, surrounded by hieroglyphs and other people smelling lotus flowers.

The front of the double-sided stela, still with some of the red and green paint surviving

A rectangular limestone stela with a large ankh in the middle, which has broken off around the top loop. The bottom left corner is also missing. There is a man carved, wearing a kilt, with his hands up in adoration, surrounded by hieroglyphs and other people smelling lotus flowers.
The back of the stela with the ankh. This side has scenes of workers producing offerings; bringing cattle, harvesting crops etc

The back of the double-sided stela, also with a few traces of paint left

The back of the stela with the ankh. This side has scenes of workers producing offerings; bringing cattle, harvesting crops etc
A man wearing a white kilt, green collar and red skullcap. He has his hands up in front of him in a position of adoration.

Detail of the owner of the stela, Amenysonb, showing the surviving paintwork

A man wearing a white kilt, green collar and red skullcap. He has his hands up in front of him in a position of adoration.
A fragment of a statue of a cow's head with a sun disc and two ostrich feathers on her head. What's left of the surrounding area is covered in carved hieroglyphs, including cartouches of Rameses IV

Hathor as a cow, with texts beseeching her for favours for the tomb owners. Esna, dating to Ramesses IV (Acc. No. E.66)

A fragment of a statue of a cow's head with a sun disc and two ostrich feathers on her head. What's left of the surrounding area is covered in carved hieroglyphs, including cartouches of Rameses IV

 

Death and the afterlife

The small room off to the left of the last gallery was centred around the theme of death and the afterlife.

 

It’s a darker room, with grey walls and lower lighting, giving it a wonderful tomb-like feeling. You’re met by the coffin of Userhat as the central piece of the room, with a stunning wall panel containing a reproduction of a tomb scene behind it.

 

The cases contain a fine assortment of artefacts, such as amulets, soul houses, statuettes and stelae. I was particularly struck by the funerary papyri with a page of the Amduat, and a cat mummy wrapped and put in a child’s coffin.

 

Looking into a gallery, with a large rectangular coffin in the foreground, two anthropoid coffin lids behind, flanking the wall mural of a man hunting in marshes

The Death and the Afterlife gallery, with funerary objects, including the coffin of Userhat

Looking into a gallery, with a large rectangular coffin in the foreground, two anthropoid coffin lids behind, flanking the wall mural of a man hunting in marshes
A closeup of the wall mural - a dark grey background with the scene painted in white. The scene shows a man hunting fish in marshes with a double-pronged spear, with birds flying above him

A beautiful reconstruction of a tomb scene, depicting the tomb owner spearing fish from his boat

A closeup of the wall mural - a dark grey background with the scene painted in white. The scene shows a man hunting fish in marshes with a double-pronged spear, with birds flying above him
A mummified cat, wrapped and covered in a beaded cover. It lies in a small anthropoid coffin; the lid is sitting beside it

Mummy of a cat, placed in a child's coffin. Late Period, unprovenanced (Acc. No. E.537)

A mummified cat, wrapped and covered in a beaded cover. It lies in a small anthropoid coffin; the lid is sitting beside it
A case of jewelry and amulets, including bead necklaces, wedjat-eyes, scarab amulets, djed-pillars and a page from the Amduat (black ink on papyrus)

A case displaying jewellery and amulets. At the bottom is a papyrus containing a page of the Amduat

A case of jewelry and amulets, including bead necklaces, wedjat-eyes, scarab amulets, djed-pillars and a page from the Amduat (black ink on papyrus)
Black ink on papyrus. There are three registers with netherworld deities/demons drawn in a cursive, stick-figure-like manner. They are surrounded by hieroglyphs

A page of the Amduat, showing Re's journey through the Duat. The papyrus belonged to Tja-ty, songstress of Amun-Re, 21st Dynasty, Thebes (Acc. No. E.507(2))

Black ink on papyrus. There are three registers with netherworld deities/demons drawn in a cursive, stick-figure-like manner. They are surrounded by hieroglyphs
A small square (a couple of inches) of flattened gold with inscribed hieroglyphs all over it

A gold heart-scarab plaque – the earliest-known example – belonging to Hetep Rehu, found at Abydos. Late Middle Kingdom or Second Intermediate Period (Acc. No. E.944)

A small square (a couple of inches) of flattened gold with inscribed hieroglyphs all over it
A blue faience pectoral, rectangular in shape, with Osiris and Horus painted on in black outlines

A faience pectoral, showing Isis and Osiris before Horus. Unprovenanced (Acc. No. E.192)

A blue faience pectoral, rectangular in shape, with Osiris and Horus painted on in black outlines
A small wooden shabti in the shape of a wrapped mummy (a few inches long), with its own wooden sarcophagus. The sarcophagus lid has hieroglyphs painted in black and has some woodworm damage

Wooden coffin and shabti, belonging to Saiy. From tomb TT 15, Dra abu el-Naga, Thebes, 18th Dynasty (Acc. No. E.1601)

A small wooden shabti in the shape of a wrapped mummy (a few inches long), with its own wooden sarcophagus. The sarcophagus lid has hieroglyphs painted in black and has some woodworm damage
A small reconstruction of a house, rectangular in shape

A Middle Kingdom clay soul house. Unprovenanced (Acc. No. E.6355)

A small reconstruction of a house, rectangular in shape
The top portion of a broken stela showing a man wearing a long kilt standing before a table of food offerings and three gods

Fragment of the stela of Horenpe, Late Period (25th Dynasty), Abydos. This was the stela I used for my epigraphy module when I was doing my Masters degree (Acc. No. E.27)

The top portion of a broken stela showing a man wearing a long kilt standing before a table of food offerings and three gods
A small statue of a man wearing a kilt standing with his left foot forward. some detail such as collar and edging on the kilt has been added in black ink

A wooden statue with paintwork still visible, including the tie on the kilt and the necklace. It has an offering formula on its back. Unprovenanced (Acc. No. E.8129)

A small statue of a man wearing a kilt standing with his left foot forward. some detail such as collar and edging on the kilt has been added in black ink

 

Life in Egypt

This is one of the larger galleries, and focusses on aspects of life in ancient Egypt such as trade, diplomacy, temple functions and writing. There are also cases themed around Nubia, post-Pharaonic Egypt and a central display about the Predynastic period.

 

A low glass case containing artefacts, with an information panel on the wall behind. The has a map of Egypt, a royal statue and part of a temple wall with hieroglyphic inscription

Trade, empire and literature in Ancient Egypt

A low glass case containing artefacts, with an information panel on the wall behind. The has a map of Egypt, a royal statue and part of a temple wall with hieroglyphic inscription
A glass-fronted case with three shelves of artefacts, including a kopesh sword, texts on papyrus, bes-jars and ceramic containers

Display case with items such as workmen's tools, administrative documents and domestic items

A glass-fronted case with three shelves of artefacts, including a kopesh sword, texts on papyrus, bes-jars and ceramic containers
A low, glass display case with artefacts and an information panel on the wall behind containing details about the Hellenistic and Byzantine eras in Egypt

Post-pharaonic times, including the Coptic Period

A low, glass display case with artefacts and an information panel on the wall behind containing details about the Hellenistic and Byzantine eras in Egypt
A badly damaged papyrus with text written in black ink. The papyrus is held within glass panels with a wooden frame

A letter written in hieratic, from the oil-burner Ramose to the Lady of the House Sherire. Tell el-Amarna, 18th Dynasty (Acc. No. E.572)

A badly damaged papyrus with text written in black ink. The papyrus is held within glass panels with a wooden frame
A papyrus with some damage to it, particularly down the left-hand side. The text is written in black ink and the papyrus is in a black frame with a white backing

Greek document detailing a house rental. Oxyrhynchus, Late Period (Acc. No. E.545)

A papyrus with some damage to it, particularly down the left-hand side. The text is written in black ink and the papyrus is in a black frame with a white backing
A square piece of papyrus with a little damage around the edges. The text is written in black ink and the papyrus is in a black frame with white backing

A sales deed for wine, written in Greek. Oxyrhynchus, Late Period (Acc. No. E.544)

A square piece of papyrus with a little damage around the edges. The text is written in black ink and the papyrus is in a black frame with white backing
A small piece of wood in the shape of a rocker (semi-circular) with a line of hieroglyphs inscribed across the centre

Inscribed model rocker from the foundation deposits found at Hatshepsut's mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri, 18th Dynasty (Acc. No. E.2014-226)

A small piece of wood in the shape of a rocker (semi-circular) with a line of hieroglyphs inscribed across the centre
A small, cylindrical ceramic jar with a face molded into the front. The face has protruding nose, lips and ears

Ceramic jar with the face of Bes. Esna, Late Period (Acc. No. E.6851)

A small, cylindrical ceramic jar with a face molded into the front. The face has protruding nose, lips and ears
Looking at two display cases containing artefacts - the one in the foreground is a low case and the one in the background a tall one with three selves. There are three people in the room looking at the cases

Display case with objects from the Nubian city of Meroë, with the Predynastic case in the foreground

Looking at two display cases containing artefacts - the one in the foreground is a low case and the one in the background a tall one with three selves. There are three people in the room looking at the cases
Three rectangular gold pendants inscribed with hieroglyphs

Necklace dividers with the name of King Aramatelka. Napatan Period (Acc. No. E.8041-3)

Three rectangular gold pendants inscribed with hieroglyphs
Gina and Roland standing in front of a three-shelved display case

Gina Laycock and Roland Enmarch discussing the finer nuances of object display

Gina and Roland standing in front of a three-shelved display case

 

That’s not all, folks!

Unfortunately, I was on a time limit, and I’d got a bit too caught up gabbing with Gina and another of my ex-lecturers Roland Enmarch. Having run out of time, I had to dash, and didn’t get to see the last room, which was displaying objects from the Near East and Rome.

 

This does mean, of course, that I’m going to have to come back again (hooray!).

 

But, for now, here’s a sneak peek of the final room:

A view of one of the galleries with display cases around the edge, tall windows on the back wall and two benches in the centre of the room

 

Final thoughts

When I heard that the archaeology library had been moved and absorbed into the large Sydney Jones library, and that the archaeology museum was moving into the space, I felt a little sad. I’d loved the archaeology library; it was one of my favourite places to go on campus.

 

However, when I saw what had been achieved, I couldn’t be anything but hugely impressed. Such a lot of thought and hard work has obviously gone into the new museum. And several familiar faces made my visit all the better.

 

I think the rooms will continue to be my favourite place on campus.

 

If you like what you’ve seen here, please do consider supporting the Garstang by visiting. At the moment, it’s open on Wednesdays only, but they hope to be able extend these hours in due course.

 

You can also follow the museum online:

 

Please do stop in, if you can; it’s well worth a visit. I know I’ll be back in again soon.

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