New exhibition opens on 2 December

A new exhibition will bring together fascinating objects and hidden stories from the collections of National Museums Scotland to reveal how ancient Egypt has captivated Scotland over the past 200 years, as it still does today.

Discovering Ancient Egypt is a National Museums Scotland touring exhibition which will examine Scotland’s contribution to Egyptology through the lives of three remarkable people whose work in the field helped to improve our understanding of ancient Egyptian culture.

An archaeologist, artist and astronomer, their skill, dedication and enthusiasm ensured that they each made a significant contribution to the study of ancient Egypt. Today’s Egyptologists are still making discoveries thanks to the important work they carried out.

Wick-born Alexander Henry Rhind (1833-1863) was the first archaeologist to work in Egypt, and a pioneer of systematic excavation and recording. On display will be objects from a tomb he excavated including a Book of the Dead papyrus belonging to a Prime Minister and inscribed wooden labels which were discovered with the mummified remains of ten princesses who shared the same royal tomb.

Based in Edinburgh, Charles Piazzi Smyth (1819-1900) served as Astronomer Royal for Scotland and carried out the first largely accurate survey of the Great Pyramid and the first-ever photography of its interior with his wife Jessie. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to see some of his instruments including a measuring rod he used to carry out this pioneering work.

Annie Pirie Quibell (1862-1927) was an Aberdonian who was one of the first women to study Egyptology and went on to work on significant excavations as an artist and archaeologist. She studied and excavated with W M Flinders Petrie, who is often described as the, “father of Egyptian archaeology.”

Her artistic skill was put to great use recording the site and artefacts found, and academics today still study these drawings in their research. On display will be finds from one of the earliest temple sites in Egypt at Hierakonpolis– including a bowl decorated with very early hieroglyphs and a faience baboon, both of which are over 5,000 years old.

On 8 February 2019, three new galleries opened at the National Museum of Scotland. Dedicated to Ancient Egypt, East Asia and the Art of Ceramics, they are the final part a 15-year journey, restoring one of the UK’s finest Victorian buildings, revealing remarkable treasures and creating inspiring learning experiences to engage more visitors.

An innovative National Programme, funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and led by National Museums Scotland, extends the reach and impact of the Ancient Egypt Rediscovered and Exploring East Asia galleries beyond the National Museum’s walls to engage other museums and new audiences across Scotland.

The nationwide programme of activity aims to develop our understanding of the Ancient Egypt and East Asia collections held in local museums. National Museums Scotland is collaborating with museums around Scotland to explore their collections, share new information about them and provide new learning and digital resources for their visitors.

Discovering Ancient Egypt is on display at the John Gray Centre in Haddington from 2 December 2020 until 19 April 2021.

Cllr John McMillan, East Lothian Council’s spokesperson for Economic Development and Tourism, said: “Attracting a national exhibition to East Lothian reflects both the ability and professionalism of our Museums staff who plan and curate varied programmes all year round. 2020 has been a very challenging year for us all but this exhibition provides an opportunity locally for residents and families to enjoy which, when combined with a visit to the High Street shops, cafes and other hospitality venues, can provide a welcome day out.”

Jilly Burns, Head of National and International Partnerships at National Museums Scotland said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate with the John Gray Centre to bring this fascinating exhibition about ancient Egypt to Haddington. This remarkable culture has enthralled museum visitors for generations and this national touring exhibition has allowed us to bring this material to people across the length and breadth of Scotland.”

Caroline Clark, Director of Scotland, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Not everyone is able to travel to Edinburgh to visit the National Museum’s wonderful new galleries. However, thanks to funding raised by National Lottery players, the people of Haddington will be able to see a selection of its delights in their home town. Scotland has always had a fascination for ancient Egypt and we are delighted that this touring exhibition will give people across the country the opportunity to share that fascination.”

Discovering Ancient Egypt is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Hugh Fraser Foundation.

Published: Tuesday, 24th November 2020