Update from the Garstang: tiny amulets and a visit from Bob Brier

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Having had a bit of a break from photographing artefacts while the Book of the Dead exhibition was being put together, I started back at the Garstang a couple of weeks ago.

Whilst having a bit of an explore of the storerooms, I happened upon some boxes of amulets; I knew immediately these tiny little objects could be great fun to photograph.

Why photograph amulets?

Amulets certainly hold a cultural interest as objects the Egyptians considered important to help with the smooth running of both this life and the next.

Photographically speaking, I think amulets could make for a great project. These objects are small – tiny, sometimes – so they can be easily overlooked in display cases and the naked eye can really struggle to pick out details on the smaller ones.

Put an amulet in front of a macro lens, however, and a whole new world can open up. Take the faience Horus amulet I photographed on Wednesday; he’s only about an inch tall, so easy to pass by, but when you see him magnified by the lens, you pick out all sorts of detail (the sand in his belly button, for one!):

A small blue faience amulet of the ancient Egyptian god Horus
Faience Horus amulet (Garstang Museum of Archaeology, E.9185, 2.9 cm)

Or how about this gorgeous little hedgehog. How many people would really stop and dwell on his amazing little whiskers and bobbly little nose if he were in a display case?

A small ancient Egyptian hedgehog amulet
Green faience hedgehog amulet, 26th Dynasty (Garstang Museum of Archaelogy, E.207, 2.8 cm)

I do think there’s potential for a photographic project here. Imagine these photos printed out at A3 size, the amulets shown at many times their original size. A print exhibition and/or book would work really well.

Bob Brier in the house

Last Wednesday, the Garstang had a couple of tours booked in. The first – a school group – was well under way when I got to the museum. The second – a tour group from the United States – came in just after lunch, and I offered to get a few photos for the museum to use for their outreach.

When the group arrived, I immediately recognised their leader: Bob ‘Mr Mummy’ Brier, the US Egyptologist famous for his experimental mummification of a human cadavar. I jumped into photojournalist mode and got photographing the group as they explored the Garstang.

People in an exhibition about ancient Egypt, talking about one of the displays
Museum volunteer Lauren giving Bob and his group a tour of the Book of the Dead exhibition
People on a guided tour in a museum gallery
Assistant curator Eleanor talking to the group about some Greek artefacts

They were a lovely group of people, and seemed to really enjoy their visit. Bob himself was friendly, passionate and very approachable. He was also quite accommodating when I asked if I could get a photo of him with the Garstang mummy (thanks, Bob!).

Bob Brier standing next to an ancient Egyptian mummy
Mr Mummy and the Garstang Mummy
Bob Brier standing in front of an ancient Egyptian mummy, crossing his arms
My favourite photo of the day

Whilst I’ve been enjoying the artefact photography immensely, I do also just love doing a bit of documentary photography, capturing people on the fly. They’re two completely different types of photography, and mixing them up really does keep life fun.

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25 January 2019 11:53 am

[…] visiting from the USA. I’d offered to come up from photographing amulets in the basement to get some photos of the group. When they arrived, I immediately recognised the group leader as the wonderful Bob Mr Mummy Brier. […]

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