Exploring the history of Egypt and Sudan in UK Museums

Recordings will be made available for those unable to attend the live sessions!

Ancient Egyptian and Sudanese objects can be seen in many varied museums across the UK, but these collections are not neutral: museum collections and knowledge have been created and shaped over centuries to project very specific images of ancient Egypt. But how did they get there? And how are they displayed and interpreted today in their modern context?

In this course, we will present an overview of Egypt and Sudan in UK museums from the 18th century to the present day, reflecting on these museum histories and how they continue to shape our ideas of the Nile Valley. We will study how ancient Egyptian and Sudanese material arrived at UK museums, and how the forming of these collections, their categorisation, their display, and interpretation to the public have ultimately shaped our ideas of Egypt and Sudan, both ancient and modern.

These themes, intertwined with the historical and political contexts of British archaeology in Egypt and Sudan, have been critical in shaping our understanding and ideas of Egypt – but how can we best address these issues today? By incorporating aspects of museum studies approaches, we will encourage participants to develop critical thinking and take part in discussions relating to current museum practice. It is vital that we understand these histories to know where we are going; as such, we will also look to the future to debate best practice for display, storage, interpretation and dissemination.

This course will best suit participants who identify as having an understanding of basic approaches to museum history, to the histories of ancient and modern Egypt and Sudan, and to critical perspectives around these themes.



Dr Alice Williams is the Curatorial and Collections Assistant at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian and Sudanese Archaeology, UCL. In 2020 she was awarded her PhD from the University of Oxford which focused on the temporary exhibitions of the Egypt Exploration Society and British School of Archaeology in Egypt as part of the AHRC-funded project ‘Artefacts of Excavation’. Her research interests cover museum and exhibition history, specialising in the display and reception of collections from Egypt.

Dr Anna Garnett is the Curator of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian and Sudanese Archaeology, UCL, and has worked at several local, national and university museums in the UK over the past two decades. She earned her PhD from the University of Liverpool and works as a Field Archaeologist in Egypt and Sudan. Her research interests include the reconciliation of Egyptian and Sudanese object assemblages and archives, the history of archaeological funding in Egypt and object distribution in the late-19th and early 20th centuries, and object- and archive-based teaching.

Courtesy of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian and Sudanese Archaeology, UCL

Course Outline

Thursday 7th April, 18:00-19:30 (UK time)
Week One - 18th – 19th century: collecting ‘curiosities’ and displaying status
In this class, participants will learn about the early history of collecting and displaying Egypt and Sudan, including the emergence of ‘Cabinets of Curiosity’ and the development of national collections (including the British Museum).

Thursday 14th April, 18:00-19:30 (UK time)
Week Two - 19th and 20th century: exporting Egypt under British occupation
Here, we will explore the historical and political context of Egypt in the 1880s and the rise of museums in the UK, including the development of the EES, of large-scale excavation and the implementation of the ‘partage’ system of object distribution.

Thursday 21st April, 18:00-19:30 (UK time)
Week Three - 1920s: when things began to change
Participants will learn about this key turning point in Egyptian and museum history through discussions around the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922, and we will also present the development of archaeology in Sudan from the 1940s onwards.

Thursday 28th April, 18:00-19:30 (UK time)
Week Four - The birth of the Blockbuster
The 1972 ‘Treasures of Tutankhamun’ exhibition at the British Museum was the world’s first true ‘blockbuster’ exhibition, and here we will discuss the impact of these ‘blockbusters’ on the display of Egypt and Sudan in UK museums then and now.

Thursday 5th May, 18:00-19:30 (UK time)
Week Five - Legacies: the present and future of museum practice
In this final class, we will explore the present and future of Egypt and Sudan in UK museums in the context of these complex legacies, including discussions around recent redisplays and decolonising collections.


20% of your ticket fee will go toward the Society’s Collection FundThank you.

Members of the Egypt Exploration Society can book at a heavily discounted rate. If you’re not yet a member but would like to join in order to receive this discount, then please ensure that you have already joined here. Subscriptions from members include a donation to support and promote Egypt’s cultural heritage. If you are a Cairo Associate, then please contact our Cairo Office to reserve your discounted tickets: [email protected] 

Register for your place in advance using the links below. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the course. Links for joining the event will be sent by email. If you do not receive your email, then please check your junk folders before contacting the Egypt Exploration Society. The course will be held on our Zoom platform and attendees will be able to interact by asking questions, using the chat and polls. It is not necessary to have a working webcam or microphone for this course. The online course will be complemented by Google Drive, where resources will be uploaded.

Please ensure that you have read our guide to attending EES online events before the course begins.

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