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Masr Fel Mathaf - Egyptians in Cambridge at the Fitzwilliam

Event Date: 05 Apr 2024

Masr Fel Mathaf is a series of community engagement events that started in 2023, led by Helen Strudwick and Sara Abed, to connect the Egyptian community in Cambridge with the ancient Egyptian collection at The Fitzwilliam Museum. The aim is to create a public space which offers accessibility, exchange, sharing, engagement and bridging the past with the present, as well as bringing people into a closer relationship with their heritage. We believe that this is crucial for developing new interpretation and refreshing the displays of objects from the Egyptian collection, which would help provide a museum experience that is more genuine and closer to people.

On 24th March, we planned our third Masr Fel Mathhaf event where we welcomed family groups to The Fitzwilliam Museum, mostly Egyptians, but also Syrians and Lebanese. They joined us from Kalamna, which offers Arabic language community classes and connects families with their heritage through Arabic classes.

The day started with a family activity, led by Helen Strudwick, Sara Abed and Tom Clarke (an intern who is working at the Fitzwilliam for three months), in which both the parents and the children participated. They tried using the replicas of ancient Egyptian carpentry tools, and joints, assembling the replica coffin of a dog, making their own ancient Egyptian brushes, painting, and knowing more about ancient Egyptian woodwork making and painting techniques. They also had a chance to look at a new component of the pop-up museum: a recreation of an ancient model carpenters’ workshop (made for the Museum by Dr Geoffrey Killen, who is an expert in ancient Egyptian carpentry).

We then split into two groups: Rosanna Evans and Florencia Nannetti from the Fitzwilliam’s Learning Team, led a gallery tour in the Egyptian gallery for children, preceded by a papyrus activity, during which they learned more about papyrus making and how it is grown in Egypt today. You can find out more about learning activities for young people and adults at The Fitzwilliam Museum here.

Meanwhile, the parents also enjoyed a tour in the Egyptian galleries led by Helen Strudwick, which highlighted the people of ancient Egypt, including craftsmen, workers and making techniques. This was followed by a discussion, during which we invited participants to share their views on their museum experience. They gave very interesting suggestions and insights towards visitors experience in terms of interpretation, display and context.

After the children came back from their activities, all very excited, the Masr Fel Mathaf Egyptians visit ended.

We received very positive feedback from the families, who are very keen to participate in more similar events, especially those related to ancient Egypt, as they felt it would be an opportunity for them to learn more about their own history. They also expressed their interest to be part of the The Fitzwilliam Museum community when it comes to suggestions regarding the possible redisplay of the Egyptian galleries.

We found their insights and views very interesting and we will be thinking about their ideas when we are in a position to move forward towards the potential redisplay. It is clear that more events like these are needed to bring in more Egyptian voices and to enable local Egyptians to connect with a collection that is so relevant to them and in which they feel so much pride.

Created: 05 Apr 2024 Category: pop-ups

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