On Saturday 26 November 2011, the Ashmolean Museum
in Oxford opened six new galleries for the collections of Ancient Egypt and Nubia (present day Sudan). Building on the success of the Museums extension, which opened in 2009, this second phase of major redevelopment redisplays the world-renowned Egyptian collections to exhibit objects that have been in storage for decades, more than doubling the number of mummies and coffins on display. The galleries take visitors on a chronological journey covering more than 5000 years of human occupation of the Nile Valley.
The £5 million project has received lead support from Lord Sainsburys Linbury Trust, along with the Selz Foundation and other trusts, foundations and individuals. Rick Mather Architects have led the redesign and redisplay of the pre-existing Egypt galleries and the extension into the restored Ruskin Gallery, previously occupied by the Museum Shop. The contractor Beard has completed the construction work in the historic building. New openings link the rooms, presenting the collections under the broad themes of Egypt at its Origins; Dynastic Egypt and Nubia; Life after Death in Ancient Egypt; The Amarna Revolution; Egypt in the Age of Empires; and Egypt meets Greece and Rome.
The Ashmolean is home to some of the finest Egyptian and Nubian collections in the country, with Predynastic and Protodynastic material which ranks amongst the most significant in the world. With new lighting, display cases and interpretation, the project completes the Ashmoleans Ancient World Floor, comprising galleries that span the worlds great ancient civilisations from Egypt and Nubia, Prehistoric Europe, the Ancient Near East, Classical Greece and Rome, to India, China and Japan.
We are enormously grateful to Lord Sainsbury and the Linbury Trust for initiating this transformative project for one of the most important and popular areas of the Museum. Rick Mathers design for the galleries now allows us to display material that, for reasons of conservation, has not been seen for up to half a century. Dr Christopher Brown CBE, Director of the Ashmolean.
Professor Andrew Hamilton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said, "These remarkable collections are among the most important outside Egypt and one of the Ashmoleans most popular attractions. With an exciting series of new galleries, the redevelopment transforms opportunities for using the collections for teaching and research at all levels, and the way they are enjoyed, cared for and integrated within the wider Museum.
Collected over 300 years, the Ashmoleans Egyptian holdings tell some of the most interesting stories of archaeological discovery, which have made Egyptology so popular and fascinating. Over time the Museum has amassed iconic pieces such as the wallpainting depicting the daughters of Akhenaten and Nefertiti; the Shrine of Taharqa from the temple at Kawa the only complete free-standing pharaonic building in Britain; and the colossal limestone statues of the fertility god Min which date to 3300 BC. The Ashmoleans Egyptian collections now number more than 40,000 artefacts.