17 Jun 2024

More EES Archives on Tour

Read about the Society’s latest archive loan to Bolton Museum.

On Wednesday 12 June 2024, the Egypt Exploration Society unveiled its latest archive loan at Bolton Museum. This time, we were delighted to present the large oil painting of our founder, Amelia B Edwards, where it will be on display during opening hours for the new few years.

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© Henry Lisowski

Standing with the newly displayed oil painting of EES founder, Amelia B Edwards, at Bolton Museum. L-R: Mayoress and Mayor of Bolton - Karen Holdsworth and Cllr Andy Morgan, Curator of Archaeology, Egyptology and World Cultures at Bolton Museum – Ian Trumble, Chair of the EES – Dr Campbell Price, EES Lead Local Ambassadors and EES Building the Future Campaign Champions – Prof Joann Fletcher and Dr Stephen Buckley, and EES Director – Dr Carl Graves. Image © Henry Lisowski.

The oil painting, one of only two known in existence, shows Amelia Ann Blanford Edwards, founder of the Egypt Exploration Society. It was painted by Florence Blakiston Attwood-Mathews probably between 1882 and 1892, though seems to have been copied from a photograph rather than an actual sitting.

The painting has been in the possession of the Society since 1967 having been previously in the ownership of Emily Paterson, Secretary of the EES from 1892 to 1919. Recent research indicates that the painting had previously been owned by the Society before being given as a gift to Emily Paterson, who had been the Assistant Secretary of the Society under Amelia Edwards and was trained by her. The complex story of the painting, its subject, and subsequent journey back to the EES is the topic of current study at the Society. Dr Carl Graves gave a lecture unpacking the life and legacy of Amelia Edwards to celebrate the loan, which coincided with the 140th anniversary of the Museum.

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© Henry Lisowski

Dr Carl Graves (EES Director) delivered a lecture about the life and legacy of Amelia Edwards during the launch event at Bolton Museum. Image © Henry Lisowski.

Dr Carl Graves (EES Director) said: “It is a real pleasure to present this painting on loan to Bolton Museum. The Society’s links to the Museum go back to our foundation when Amelia Edwards established a network of Local Honorary Secretaries that included Annie Barlow of Bolton. Their partnership resulted in the distribution of Egyptian artefacts to the northwest from EES excavations in Egypt and is one of the reasons that Bolton now has the largest collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities in a UK local authority museum. To see Amelia Edwards displayed opposite Annie Barlow in the gallery reunites these two pioneering women across time and space so that their legacies can be unpacked together in a public venue.”

Ian Trumble (Curator at Bolton Museum) said: “The loan of this significant painting of EES founder Amelia Edwards has been the impetus for me as curator to tell the story of Bolton’s Egyptology collection, and indeed the development of the museum as a whole, in much greater detail. Thanks to the EES, for the next few years she takes centre stage in this story, connecting all of the threads that link Egypt, with the north west, through Bolton’s booming Victorian cotton trade via families like that of Local Honorary Secretary Annie Barlow. This also holds particular personal significance for me through its connection with my own ongoing PhD research on the Barlow family and their influence on the Bolton collection.”

Attending the event was also EES Chair, Dr Campbell Price, as well as Prof Joann Fletcher (University of York) in her role as Lead EES Local Ambassador. Prof Fletcher’s efforts to raise awareness of the Society, particularly in the north of England, has helped to recruit new members to the EES as well as donations that have made projects like this possible. Prof Fletcher said: “This was a hugely special event, not only celebrating 140 years of Bolton Museum but its close relationship with the EES and of course with our remarkable ‘founding mother’ Amelia Edwards. Her arrival at the museum has reinforced these enduring links, with Amelia herself now our ultimate Ambassador here in the north. Wonderful stuff!”

In recognising the importance of the loan and the 140th anniversary of Bolton Museum, Mayor Morgan said, “The Library and Museum here in the centre of Bolton, in this magnificent building, is a focal point for our town. It is a source of great pride, and has been a source of enjoyment for many Boltonians over the last 140 years. The loan of the Amelia Edwards painting will draw in visitors from not just Bolton but from around the country.”

The painting was conserved in 2023 at Simon Gillespie Studio thanks to the generous donations of EES members in 2022. Without their kind support, this loan would now have been possible and we’re very grateful for the ongoing help of EES members to raise the profile of the Society’s internationally significant collections.  We hope that you find chance to visit the painting while on loan!

Read more Bolton News here.

Read about The Lotus Chalice awarded to Prof Joann Fletcher during the event here.