About

Overview

The broad overall theme of `Ancient Worlds’ is people in the past. We know from previous consultations that we need to present local and regional archaeology within a global framework that focuses on Egypt because that is a particular strength of the collections. We want to:-

    • Bring the two disciplines of Egyptology and archaeology together

    • Show archaeology as an exciting and dynamic subject

    • Put more objects on display

    • Take a social & contextual approach, including the environment (e.g. Nile Valley)

    • Take a global perspective

    • Deal with controversial issues in a challenging but not threatening way (turn things on their head like showing the map of Egypt upside down).

    • Improve presentation standards overall

Audiences

Recognising that visitor groups are not homogeneous but represent a range of different ages, abilities and interests, the galleries will engage the public in different ways, enabling visitors to explore the displays in the way that suits them best, both sensory (visual, tactile, written, audio etc.) and intellectual (learning styles). Morris Hargreaves McIntyre’s data on the museum’s audience shows that `learning’ and `kids first’ and `self developers’ (non-specialist adults) are the majority. Our audience breaks down into the following groups:-

  • Local interest

  • Specialist interest (`connoisseurs’, Post-16/HE students, academic

researchers)

  • Global connections

  • Informal exploration (Kids first), more structured discovery (learning families)

  • Formal learning (Early Years, Primary, Secondary & Post-16)

These categories overlap and interchange depending on personal circumstances. Research shows that people are motivated to visit initially by an anticipation of the quality of the objects on display but once here respond very well to the quality of interaction or engagement.

If we develop the galleries to appeal to the interests and cater for the needs of current audiences the experience will enhance their experience, encouraging repeat visits, but will also provide a quality experience for new visitors from within the current visitor profile.

The Galleries

The first gallery (currently Daily Life) will be about our relationship with the past, how we know about it through a wide range of archaeological techniques, and how our understanding is coloured by the contemporary world. It will look at issues like archaeology and racism, colonial collecting, the illicit trade in antiquities or the visible influence of the past on the present, e.g. the main shopping street Deansgate was a Roman road. The starting point for the first area will be the contemporary world, asking visitors “Who do you think you are?” We will then explore questions of identity in the past, for instance, how might we find out what people looked like? Dating methods and other analytical techniques will feature in this gallery. We will aim to use more local and regional material where appropriate.

The second gallery (currently Death and the Afterlife) deals with empires, looking particularly at ancient Egypt. Ancient Egypt is an ideal example because it allows us to consider ancient Greece and ancient Rome too as powers that occupied Egypt and introduced different cultural trends. Not only has Egypt been colonised by other civilisations and peoples, at times Egypt has expanded its boundaries to reach the Tigris (modern day Iraq); the island of Cyprus came under Egyptian control after the death of Alexander the Great. The Assyrians and Nubians vied for control of Egypt and the Museum has a fine bas relief from Nimrud (Iraq), an Assyrian helmet and spent arrowheads from the siege of Lachish, with which to explore `Empires in conflict’. The subject of Empires makes a useful link between Roman Manchester and Roman Egypt but there is also scope to look at Mesopotamia and more modern forms of colonialism.

We will explore aspects of daily life, through individuals such as a pyramid builder, the pharaoh Akhenaten or Manchester’s favourite Egyptian mummy, Asru. Unlike the existing gallery there will be less of an emphasis on death, with far fewer mummies, possibly only Asru, the `Two Brothers’ and one other. Each person’s story will be related to their environment, for example, the life of a farmer would enable us to explore agriculture in the ancient world.

We will challenge orthodox notions of history and archaeology, for example, the map of ancient Egypt might be turned upside down to give an Egypto-centric view of the world. We will also be presenting Egypt as an African civilisation, which has interacted with, influenced and been influenced in its turn by other African cultures and civilisations. Traditionally European scholars have tended to ignore this fascinating inter-relationship. We might want to draw on the Museum’s extensive anthropology collection and make comparisons and find connections with more recent African communities.

The third gallery (upstairs – what is presently the Mediterranean Gallery) will have three elements, with changing displays, visible storage, and a classification area. Object stories/biographies could highlight particular artefacts against a backdrop of similar examples. Themes could include materials, art and design, technology and purpose. This gallery will showcase research done in the University or work carried out by local societies or schools. Showing recently discoveredobjects such as `Treasure’ items or Portable Antiquities would give the displays a topical flavour. Ideally we want to show more of the Museum’s rich reserve collections in a playful and interactive way, and give visitors an opportunity to select and group objects according to their own classificatory ideas.

Emotional Engagement

The displays should stimulate fascination, evoke a sense of mystery and create an atmosphere of excitement and discovery. Interaction is going to play a significant role. We should try to create a sense of surprise, wonderment, revelation and give a sense of the visitor going on a voyage of discovery.

New Technology

We will explore the use of new technology. Using Google Earth and hand-held devices visitors could make a link between Manchester and anywhere on the planet. The Museum has been pioneering a new kind of high-tech Haptic (touch-based) interactive for use in gallery spaces, which could also be taken out to schools. New technology will allow us to offer object stories or biographies, putting lots on display but letting visitors investigate objects of their choice.

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