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.
The first gallery. The museum entrance is to the left of the photo
One of Garstang's notebooks, with sketches of hieroglyphic inscriptions
A display case full of Garstang-related goodies
A reproduction of a scene from the tomb of Rekhmire
Detail from the coffin of Userhat
A display case and information panel for the C-group in Nubia
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.
Freestanding objects, including a double-sided Middle Kingdom stela from Abydos (Acc. No. E.30)
Head of an unknown Pharaoh, probably from Karnak (Acc. No. E.2811)
The front of the double-sided stela, still with some of the red and green paint surviving
The back of the double-sided stela, also with a few traces of paint left
Detail of the owner of the stela, Amenysonb, showing the surviving paintwork
Hathor as a cow, with texts beseeching her for favours for the tomb owners. Esna, dating to Ramesses IV (Acc. No. E.66)
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.
The Death and the Afterlife gallery, with funerary objects, including the coffin of Userhat
A beautiful reconstruction of a tomb scene, depicting the tomb owner spearing fish from his boat
Mummy of a cat, placed in a child's coffin. Late Period, unprovenanced (Acc. No. E.537)
A case displaying jewellery and amulets. At the bottom is a papyrus containing a page of the Amduat
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))
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 faience pectoral, showing Isis and Osiris before Horus. Unprovenanced (Acc. No. E.192)
Wooden coffin and shabti, belonging to Saiy. From tomb TT 15, Dra abu el-Naga, Thebes, 18th Dynasty (Acc. No. E.1601)
A Middle Kingdom clay soul house. Unprovenanced (Acc. No. E.6355)
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)
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)
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.
Trade, empire and literature in Ancient Egypt
Display case with items such as workmen's tools, administrative documents and domestic items
Post-pharaonic times, including the Coptic Period
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)
Greek document detailing a house rental. Oxyrhynchus, Late Period (Acc. No. E.545)
A sales deed for wine, written in Greek. Oxyrhynchus, Late Period (Acc. No. E.544)
Inscribed model rocker from the foundation deposits found at Hatshepsut's mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri, 18th Dynasty (Acc. No. E.2014-226)
Ceramic jar with the face of Bes. Esna, Late Period (Acc. No. E.6851)
Display case with objects from the Nubian city of Meroë, with the Predynastic case in the foreground
Necklace dividers with the name of King Aramatelka. Napatan Period (Acc. No. E.8041-3)
Gina Laycock and Roland Enmarch discussing the finer nuances of object display
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:
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:
- On their website, at https://garstangmuseum.wordpress.com/, where you can also find out more about John Garstang and the history of the museum, as well as read more detailed information about individual objects
- On Facebook, at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Garstang-Museum-of-Archaeology/119121978129762?fref=ts
- On Twitter, at https://twitter.com/GarstangMuseum
Please do stop in, if you can; it’s well worth a visit. I know I’ll be back in again soon.