diamond geezer

 Sunday, November 08, 2009

An alphabetical journey through the capital's museums
UCL Collections - Petrie Museum

Petrie MuseumLocation: Malet Place, University College London WC1E 6BT [map]
Open: Tue - Fri, 1pm-5pm (& Sat, 11am-2pm)
Admission: free
Brief summary: academic Egyptological hoard
Website: www.ucl.ac.uk/museums/petrie
Time to set aside: an hour

The University of London is reputedly the third oldest in England, after Oxford and Cambridge, established in Gower Street during the reign of George IV. It's old enough to boast (count 'em) eight different museums, most of them small, and several open by appointment only. Only one of these is open at the weekend, and then for only three hours, so I took my chance and that's where I headed. Back in time to the age of the Pharaohs, to an upper room where eighty thousand catalogued Egyptian artefacts are stored.

They don't make museums like the Petrie any more. No buttons to press, no £3 audio guides, just a heck of a lot of very old things in gloomy glass cases. The collection's primary function is to serve the needs of classical and archaeological students, and don't you forget it. Admittance is via a dead-end backstreet, through a not-entirely obvious door, then upstairs to an admissions desk in what looks like one of the campus's forgotten offices. Prepare for items-on-shelf overload, and step inside.

Petrie MuseumThe first short gallery, which is not entirely typical, houses fragments of carved stone. Few are wholly intact, but several slabs are carved with strip upon strip of exquisite hieroglyphics. As languages go, the Egyptian's intricate pictorial script may have been woefully inefficient (and entirely inappropriate for web-based communication), but it doesn't half look good. Another narrow gallery is located alongside, opening out into a larger space beyond, and all bursting with rammed-full glass cases. Don't expect glittering mummies and whopping sarcophagi, these tend to be much smaller more commonplace tomb-raided treasures. Votive tablets, serpentine caskets, and signet rings once worn by Nectaneto II - that sort of thing. Every item in the museum is labelled with a painted serial number plus a short written description, and here you'll find regular reference to dynasties, cartouches and "faience pendants". Ssh, try not to mention that all these objects were thieved from their country of origin by Empire-building 'collectors'.

For a relatively obscure museum, the building was busier than I expected. Some visitors were young couples, quite possibly UCL freshers taking time out to see what their new university had to offer. The rest tended to be older and more scholarly, or were at least pretending to be. A couple of earnest Egyptologists were wandering around, busy telling an ever-decreasing crowd of hangers-on about their favourite Petrie exhibits. It was entertaining to watch their beleaguered audience attempting politely to slip away before their nemesis dived into yet another lengthy anecdote about a big dig or the object of their PhD thesis. "You have to go do you? Pity, but thank you for your attention."

item UC14430A second, lower, gallery contains an unfeasibly high number of different kinds of pot, plus a few hundred tiles for good measure. If Egyptian earthenware is your thing then there's even a table for personal study, or alternatively where visitors under the age of 10 can colour in some pictures in crayon. One one particular wall there's a rack of torches - do take one, because the lighting's kept low throughout the museum to preserve the exhibits from permanent decay. And don't forget to check out the rear staircase, where yet more objects (including a fair number of ornamental cats and a sandstone jackal's paw) have been stashed. No space in this historical repository is underused.

If you want dazzling Egyptian treasures, then head instead for the British Museum. But for a clearer sense of the ancient everyday, or simply for the opportunity to potter round a musty academic backwater, try the Petrie.
by tube: Euston Square

U is also for...
» Undercroft Museum (in Westminster Abbey)
» erm, that's it for London museums, innit?

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this month?
28 Jan – 23 Apr (10am-4.30pm)
Sussex Modernism
The sixth annual exhibition at Two Temple Place focuses on radical art/writing in Sussex, and is damned excellent.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Feb17  Jan17
Dec16 Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards