Michael Grubb Studio has been appointed by the Fitzwilliam Museum to provide lighting design services for their forthcoming Death of a Nile Exhibition.
For very many people, ancient Egypt is an endlessly fascinating subject and immediately conjures up images of mummies, pyramids, obscure animal-headed gods, suggesting death and mystery. How can we go beyond those images and gain an understanding of the thinking behind the ancient Egyptians’ apparent obsession with death?
A rich source of information about this can be found in museums around the world. The Fitzwilliam Museum has a particularly fine collection.
The exhibition that will be held at the Fitzwilliam Museum as part of its bicentennial celebrations in 2016, it will look beyond the mysterious attitude to death in ancient Egypt to find out, so far as possible, about the people whose coffins are displayed — their beliefs and preoccupations, as well as the financial constraints which determined the types of coffin they used — and also the technologies and craftsmanship involved in creating these extraordinary objects. For the display, the museums own collection of coffins will be complemented by material lent from the British Museum and elsewhere. The museum will show how coffins developed from the early beginnings of the Egyptian state until the Roman period, reflecting changes, for example, in the social status of affluent ancient Egyptians and the gods that were important to them at different periods. Details of how the individual coffins were constructed and decorated will be shown, demonstrating the skill of the craftsmen involved, the availability of materials at different periods and adaptations that had necessarily to be made from time to time, for both practical and economic reasons. The exhibition will reveal that the apparent obsession of the Egyptians with death was, paradoxically, an obsession with life and a striving to ensure its perfected continuation for all eternity.
There will also be an extensive education and public engagement programme, in which the Museum’s Education team will be joined by both its own curators and conservators and a range of outside experts to explore the ideas behind the exhibition with numerous different interest groups. The installation itself will include an area set up as a ‘conservation studio’ in which a (live) conservator will work on a coffin or other funerary material and explain some of the science used in the investigations.
The aim of the exhibition is to reveal the truth behind the enigmatic exteriors of the coffins, to bring the ancient Egyptians a little bit closer: both the way they thought and the way they acted. The exhibition is called Death on the Nile, the title of arguably the most famous of Agatha Christie’s novels. This would be instantly recognisable to people around the world and also brings effortlessly to mind ideas of death, Egypt and the unravelling of complex mysteries.