We all know of course that the British Museum is THE place to go if you’re interested in seeing ancient Egyptian artefacts in London. But did you know that the world’s fourth largest ancient Egyptian collection is housed in a small building on the University College London (UCL) campus? I only heard of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology last week and was rather blown away by all the treasures it holds!
You might remember I discovered the amazing yet rather unknown Grant Museum of Zoology last year. And if not, you can (re-)read it here: 5 Alternative Free Things to Do in London! (Also Suitable for Families). This museum, which is home to one of the oldest natural history collections in the UK, is also part of the UCL Museums and Collections. But being quite the history nerd, I got far more excited when seeing thousands-year old Egyptian objects and writings at the Petrie Museum from up close. And the best part of it, is that it’s really quiet there of course so if you’d rather avoid the tourist masses at the British Museum, Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology makes for a great alternative!
Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology holds 80,000 objects!
When I asked the staff how big their collection was, they answered they have 8,000 objects on display. This already sounded like a lot to me, but when they added the entire collection actually consists of 80,000 objects I was deeply impressed.
‘Where do you store them all then?’ I asked them. Upon which one of them opened up a few drawers in the cabinets in the corridor, unveiling dozens of small sculptures and other artefacts hiding just in plain sight. ‘They are stored all around you and you can find them by opening up all the drawers’, he said. I unfortunately didn’t have much time to explore the museum in great detail, but I’ll definitely go back. Several times probably!
The collection consists of a wide variety of objects and artefacts as you can see in the photos here. From pyramid texts, to papyrus rolls, to sarcophaguses, death masks and so much more!
The history of the Petrie Museum
The Petrie Museum was set up as a teaching resource for the UCL in 1892. The collection was donated by writer Amelia Edwards (1831-1892). But it was professor William Flinders Petrie (1853-1942) who turned the museum in such a world-renowned institute. Petrie had an extraordinary excavation career and developed new methods which are actually still being used in the field.
The mummy portrait on the left is one of the museum highlights. It was found at a Roman cemetery near the pyramid of Harawa. The Petrie Museum holds the largest collection of such Roman funerary panels outside of Egypt (source: museum handout).
Want to visit the Petrie Museum?
It’s right on the UCL campus (see photo below). The address is: Malet Place, London, WC1E 6BT. It’s open between 13.00–17.00 from Tuesday to Saturday. (Note that it’s closed between 17 and 22 April 2019). For more information, visit their website here.
After posting photos on Instagram stories, a friend of mine wondered why these objects aren’t back in Egypt. I actually thought she had a good point. At the time Petrie ‘saved’ them from being looted from the tombs. By being part of the university and making them available for the public, I think they serve a good function nowadays. But what are your thoughts on this? Let me know in a comment below!
Thanks, Zarina xx