Bolton’s Egypt, a series of new galleries which celebrate the unique connection between Bolton and Ancient Egypt and highlight the town’s world-class collection of Egyptian artefacts, is now open
It was officially opened by former star of The Apprentice, Dr Margaret Mountford, and leading Egyptologist Professor Joann Fletcher this weekend..
The five specially-designed rooms, which are part of a £3.8m redevelopment of the town’s museum (which also includes a new gallery space, nature displays and a local history section) contain over 2,000 different objects drawn from Bolton’s extensive archive of over 12,000 items. Much of the Council’s collection is the result of Victorian philanthropy, and the direct legacy of three prominent Bolton families.
The new galleries were designed by Leach Studios, a company which specialises in creating museum and exhibition visitor experiences.
At their heart is a breath-taking, full-scale recreation of the tomb of Thutmose III – the first of its kind outside Egypt. The recreated tomb, first discovered in the Valley of the Kings in 1898, has created a stunning home for Bolton’s famous mummy.
The incredibly well-preserved body, believed to be a male in his twenties, was first acquired by Bolton in the 1930s. Recent tests have found it has a bone structure like that of Rameses II, and therefore likely to be of Royal descent.
The figure is laid on an ornate coffin-base within the highly atmospheric chamber, the walls of which feature vivid illustrations depicting the 12-hour journey that the Ancient Egyptians believed was taken by the human soul from this life to the next. There is also an animated film projected on the wall of the tomb which captures every stage of the dramatic and perilous passage into the afterlife, based on the tomb’s illustrations.
Also on display are highly-decorated funeral masks, intricately-carved stone columns, brightly coloured fragments of ceramics, ornate statues and illustrated reliefs. In addition, there are displays of jewellery, clothing, jars, ornaments, figurines, tools, coffins and weapons.
But in sharp contrast to the more traditional dark, low-lit approach to presenting Ancient Egyptian objects, Bolton’s Egypt has been designed to be bright, vibrant and welcoming.
With an emphasis on natural light, the first two galleries are adorned with large coloured murals and other graphics which capture the Ancient Egyptian people’s celebration of life. Themes include fashion, beauty and lifestyle, together with sections on travel, trade and the natural world.
A background soundscape of bird calls, voices, music, children laughing and a flowing river complements the bold visual style, and there is an emphasis on pleasure and playfulness running throughout many of the displays.
Elements of fun are further reinforced by a number of installations. These include ‘Egypt for the Many’, a video-wall which displays examples of film and TV content that reflects the public’s enduring obsession with mummies, pharaohs and the Pyramids.
The Bangles’ 1987 hit single ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’, Batman star Adam West’s infamous ‘Dance for King Tut’ from a 1966 episode of the TV series and excerpts from Disney cartoons, Hollywood blockbusters and other popular Egyptian memes all feature.
Then there is a modified ‘Donkey Derby’ game which allows visitors to race different forms of Ancient Egyptian transport against each other by pulling on ropes and turning handles.
Councillor Linda Thomas, Leader of Bolton Council and the Culture Lead for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, said: “Ever since The Chadwick Museum was first opened at Queen’s Park in 1884, Bolton has a long history of giving people the chance to enjoy its priceless collection of Egyptian artefacts.
“We are also very proud of the town’s rich philanthropic tradition, our deeply-rooted civic values, and a belief in improving the quality of life for all Boltonians through free access to high-quality cultural, educational and community resources.
“The new Egyptian galleries capture all of these principles and will put our museum firmly on the map regionally, nationally and internationally. Further, Bolton’s Egypt will act as a major tourist attraction and help boost the local economy, creating jobs and becoming a driver for future regeneration in the town centre.”