Museum news – January 2022

The latest on acquisitions, exhibitions, and key decisions.

From Downton to Down Under

A well-travelled Egyptian shabti, or funerary figurine, has gone on permanent display at the University of Sydney’s Chau Chak Wing Museum. Dating to c.1550 BC, the small figure was one of eight excavated in 1908 at the tomb of Tetiky in Thebes; it was associated with the burial of his mother, Senseneb. This investigation was headed by the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who later financed the excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb, and like many artefacts from the more famous campaign, this shabti entered the Earl’s antiquities collection at Highclere Castle in Hampshire – today best known as the setting for Downton Abbey. Following the Earl’s death, many of these artefacts were sold to the Met Museum in New York, but the shabti was discovered inside a cupboard purchased from the estate by Maximilian Preston. It travelled to Australia with Preston’s daughter in 1937, and her own daughter, Suzanne Harris, has now donated the figurine to the University of Sydney’s museum to ensure its conservation.

IMAGE: University of Sydney.

Recent reopenings

The Museum of Liverpool’s Wondrous Place gallery, which celebrates Liverpool’s cultural impact and had been closed for three years to accommodate other exhibitions, has now reopened. Its music displays have been updated to include more coverage of contemporary sites, dance music, and the contribution of black Liverpudlians, and there is also a ‘Stage and Screen’ section focusing on Merseyside actors, writers, and productions, as well as Liverpool’s role as a film set. Other newly added objects include racing silks worn by Rachael Blackmore, the first female jockey to win the Grand National; boxing shorts belonging to Natasha Jones, the first female boxer to qualify to represent Team GB at the Olympics; four suits made for the Beatles in 1963; and an outfit worn by Jodie Comer as Villanelle in the BBC thriller Killing Eve. The Museum of Oxford has also recently reopened, following a £2.8m refurbishment that has tripled its size and expanded the number of exhibits on display from 286 to 750. The museum, which tells the story of Oxford and its inhabitants, has gained two new galleries, interactive exhibits, and workshops for school and family activities.

National Trust carriage collection grows

A Victorian carriage has been donated to the National Trust by a descendant of the coachman who once drove it. Painted bright yellow with a black roof and a luxurious silk-lined interior, the carriage originally belonged to the Chichester family, based at Hall mansion near Bishop’s Tawton in Devon. When the vehicle came up for sale in 1996, it was purchased by its coachman’s great-grandson Garth Pedler, who has now donated it to the National Trust. It joins the Trust’s collection of more than 40 historic examples displayed at the Carriage Museum at Arlington Court – a country house that, coincidentally, was once owned by another branch of the Chichester family.

New exhibitions

Ancient Greeks: science and wisdom

Science Museum, London
Until 5 June 2022

Traders of the Lost Arts

House of Manannan, Peel, Isle of Man
Until 25 September 2022

Showing Your Mettle: the Boat Race trophies

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Until 27 March

Last chance to see

Romans: edge of empire

Perth Museum and Art Gallery
Until 6 February 2022

Cultures of Cloth in the Medieval East Midlands

University of Nottingham Museum
Until 20 February 2022


British Museum, London
Until 30 January 2022