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After Hours: Gifts for the Gods

February 28, 2016

Manchester Museum has featured a few times on this blog in the past three years. And here it is again.
This museum is my second favourite museum and, I think, for good reason. They organise so many fun and interesting things!
On the very first day of the current temporary exhibition, Gifts for the Gods: Animal Mummies Revealed I went to see it. The 25th of February saw a connected After Hours event. The main item on the agenda was the wrapping of an animal mummy. That was enough to make me curious.

Before the ‘re-wrapping’ began I had the chance to see the temporary exhibition again, this time with my best friend. She enjoyed it very much and agrees that it’s a small, but very informative exhibition. It covers all aspects of animal mummies you can possibly think of. This evening, however, we had the added bonus of “Mummy Auction TV”, which transported us to the 19th century when a ship full of animal mummies arrived in Liverpool. The question was: how much would you pay for just one cat mummy to prank your friends. I can tell you that the bids varied greatly.

Throughout the evening there were various activities, so never a dull moment. Anthony Parker read ‘ancient Egypt inspired’ poems. Parts of these poems you could print on textile.


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We had a chat with Pascal Nichols who was creating a clay pot for the ‘Ibis’ mummy. Of course he did not have the time to finish it completely, as in: it would have to be baked later, but we got a good idea on how it was created and how big it would be when completed. To be honest, I don’t think the finished mummy will fit in the pot, but maybe we will get an update on that at a later date.

Visitors also had the option to mummify an orange. It was good fun to see people removing their oranges’ “internal organs” by hand. Some of the bandages were quite colourful which unleashed some creativity and yielded some beautiful results!


The end result of textile printing.
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Something I have also mentioned before is that Manchester Museum is quite good in using modern technology to support their exhibitions and permanent display. They are also very active on social media. This evening was no different. The whole thing was streamed live to Periscope, so if you couldn’t make it, you could still see how the re-rolling progressed.

The animal mummy re-rolling was done by Drs Stephanie Woolham and Lidija McKnight. We were told this was their very first attempt at creating an animal mummy, but they could have fooled me. Not only did they manage in the few hours they had, the result is amazing.
This may also be the moment to explain that no real animal was used.


Drs Campbell Price, Stephanie Woolham and Lidija McKnight with their brand new animal mummy.
Photo taken by Joanne Loftus – © All Rights Reserved

In my previous post about the temporary exhibition I did mention the book that goes with it. I have now bought this book and, even though I still have to read it completely, I am quite enthusiastic about it. It’s a comprehensive book with many articles by a variety of people. It covers the entire path an animal mummy could take: from ancient Egypt to the excavations in the 19th century (and beyond), to private collections, to museum collections, to the wonderful uses (fertiliser?), to previous and current research. If you are interested in animal mummies this is certainly a book I would recommend, simply because it covers so much. Oh, the bibliography is seven (!) pages, so this book may just serve as a brilliant starting point for very extensive study, if you’re so inclined, of course. I know I am.


This ibis mummy is part of the temporary exhibition and the example this experiment was based on.
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Gifts for the Gods: Animal Mummies Revealed will be at the Manchester Museum until 17 April 2016.
After that it will go to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow (May-September 2016) and finally to World Museum, Liverpool (October 2016-March 2017).

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