Liverpool’s World Museum houses the Ancient Egypt gallery, the second largest gallery of ancient Egyptian antiquities and artefacts in the UK after the British Museum.
The collection of objects from ancient Egypt and Nubia covers a timespan of over 5,000 years of human life in the Nile Valley, with highlights including one of Egyptology’s rarest discoveries – the Ramesses Girdle – a wonderfully well-preserved item of royal clothing originally worn by Pharaoh Ramesses III (1186 – 1155 BC).
The evolution of the collection began in 1852, when goldsmith Joseph Mayer opened his Egyptian Museum in Liverpool. Many of Mayer’s objects came from the same sources as those now in the British Museum and the Louvre, and there is no doubt that Liverpool’s status as a port city, supplying cotton from Egypt to Lancashire’s cotton mills, helped him build such a substantial and diverse collection.
In 1867, Mayer donated the collection to The Liverpool Free Library and Museum (now World Museum), establishing it as the most important public collection of Egyptian antiquities outside London. 3,000 objects were destroyed when the museum was bombed in 1941, but the collection subsequently increased in number by 10,000 over the next 40 years, and currently stands at around 20,000 objects – 1,2000 of which are showcased in the current ancient Egypt gallery.
Apart from the world famous Ramesses Girdle, the collection includes a gold ring that belonged to King Amenhotep II, a four-metre long Book of the Dead illustrated papyrus, and ‘Papyrus Mayer B’ – a unique account of a tomb robbery in the Valley of the Kings. The exhibition tells the story of how the collection came into being, and Liverpool’s connections with archaeological digs in both Egypt and Sudan.
As we regularly highlight, our friends and partners at National Museums Liverpool are the custodians of some of not just the UK’s, but the world’s most famous art and antiquities. Following the reopening of NML’s museums and galleries on 17th May, we encourage both locals and visitors to explore these free venues, including taking a ‘journey through time’ at World Museum’s magnificent Ancient Egypt gallery.