Book of the Dead exhibition at the University of Liverpool

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The Garstang Museum of Archaeology’s second annual summer exhibition opened on Liverpool Light Night in May 2017. This year’s exhibition was particularly special to me as I’d been involved in it.

The exhibition was about the Egyptian Book of the Dead and the journey of the deceased through the underworld. The exhibition had funerary papyri, coffins, amulets and shabtis to show off. My involvement was a photographic one.

 

Photography for the Book of the Dead exhibition

Some of the papyri in the museum’s collection are just too fragile or fragmented to display. Also, curator Gina Criscenzo-Laycock wanted to accentuate the artefacts with enlarged details from the papyri. So I spent many hours in the department’s photographic suite in near darkness with my camera and macro lens and lots of papyri.

The camera on a tripod photographing a papyrus. The camera's very close to the surface of the glass to get a detailed shot of part of the papyrus
With a macro lens, you can get really close to your subject, capturing lots of detail

 

I then spent many more hours in front of my computer, processing the images. Some of the pieces of papyrus needed a bit of ‘repair’ in Photoshop; the pieces were fragmentary and I pulled them back together to make a more aesthetically pleasing image.

The photos were then printed at large sizes to sit alongside the artefacts, helping to give the exhibition a proper tomb-like, otherworldly feel.

 

At the Garstang Museum

The exhibition showed at the Garstang Museum over the summer of 2017. It was held in the museum’s teaching room, used during the academic year, but empty during the summer break. It’s the same room the museum used for their Meroë exhibition in 2016.

The exhibition was truly beautifully designed, with a false wall in the centre of the room guiding visitors around and giving it that tomb-like feel. At the far end of the room, a large wall hanging had a stylised representation of the Lake of Fire accompanied by two wonderful lights with bright pink and purple flickering faux flames.

There was a set of scales with a feather of Maat, on which you could weigh your heart. There was also a mummy jigsaw with amulets to fit in.

I loved the exhibition, and was so proud that my photos were a part of it.

A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving

Looking through the door of the exhibition

A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving
A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving

The first corridor, with papyri, my photos and the coffin lid

A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving
A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving

The coffin panels of Ipi

A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving
A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving

The other corridor, with more of my images and a papyrus on display

A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving
A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving

The scales of truth to weigh your heart on, and the lake of fire

A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving
A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving

Flames in the Lake of Fire

A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving

 

At the Victoria Gallery and Museum

After the exhibition finished at the Garstang, it moved over to the Victoria Gallery and Museum, the Garstang’s sister museum at the University of Liverpool.

I went to visit the exhibition shortly after it opened, and I have to say it looks great again. There’s been a change of wall colour, from black to dark green, which, although it gives the room a different feel, works really well. As can happen when exhibitions travel, it’s had to be fitted into the space. The room has a long glass display case in the centre, which contains not only artefacts, but also some of my photos. My images don’t need to be behind glass, and the section which has just information panels and my photos looks a little out of place inside a case. But, maybe I see it because I’ve spent so much time around the exhibition already. I’d be interested to know what other people think.

The only major omission from the display at the Garstang is the Lake of Fire with its rather lovely lights. Which is a shame. However, all the artefacts and photos that were at the Garstang are now in the VGM.

The VGM itself is housed in the university’s famous Victorian building with the beautiful clock tower just at the top of Brownlow Hill. The interior’s as lovely as the exterior – gorgeous Victorian tiling all over the walls and mosaic flooring. It also has a yummy cafe in the foyer which we used to refuel after visiting the Book of the Dead.

A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving

The hallway approaching the exhibition

A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving
A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving

The entrance to the exhibition

A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving
A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving

Some of my photos on the wall

A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving
A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving

The coffin boards of Ipi and the amulet case

A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving
A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving

The central display case

A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving
A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving

Three papyri

A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving
A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving

My girls weighing their hearts against the feather of truth

A replica carving of the hieroglyps spelling out the name of Khufu. The text next to it encourages visitors to feel the carving

 

If you can get to the VGM to see the exhibition, I’d really recommend it (no bias, of course …). The exhibition’s on until October 2018 and the museum’s open Tuesday to Saturday every week.


I’m currently working with the Garstang on an ongoing basis, creating fine-art images of some of their artefacts. I have a separate website for this work – http://retrograde.photography – where you can read more about the work I did on the exhibition and other ongoing work.

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