|History of the Egypt Centre|
The collection formally opened to the public in March 1976 for two afternoons in each week of term (Thursdays and Fridays 2.30-4.30). Some artefacts were also displayed at the Royal Institution (now Swansea Museum). Within the University, while some cases were available, many artefacts were displayed unprotected and so in 1978-1979 additional display cases were purchased with the grand sum of £2,100 (inclusive of VAT) from the University reserve fund! In 1978 the collection was added to by items from the British Museum and in 1981 by the gift of a 21st Dynasty coffin from Exeter. Further items were given by individuals.
Occasionally, schools visited and Kate felt it extremely important to ensure that all visitors were made to feel welcome and of course to learn something of ancient Egyptian material culture.In 1993 the title 'Honorary Curator' was passed to David Gill, lecturer in the Department of Classics and Ancient History, University of Wales, Swansea. David had formerly been a research assistant in Greek and Roman antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (1988-1992). Kate continued as Honorary Adviser.
The collection was however under-used, possibly because of resource limitations in terms of staff, money and space but also perhaps because of the then unfashionable nature of object-centred learning in universities. In January 1995 Sybil Crouch, manager of the Taliesin Arts Centre, produced a report to the University Image and Marketing Sub Committee suggesting the setting up of a new museum for the Egyptology exhibition. After the suggestion to improve access to the collection, Heritage Lottery Funding and European Regional Development Funding was sought. This, together with a sum from the University, allowed the building of a purpose built museum as a wing of the Taliesin Arts Centre. A working party, chaired by Professor Alan Lloyd, Head of the Department of Classics and Ancient History and an Egyptologist, worked on ideas for display. During this time members of the group had included: Anthony Donohue, an Egyptologist who had studied the collection over a number of years, Gerald Gab from Swansea Museum Service, David Gill, Fiona Dixon, a Swansea University architect, the designer and Sybil Crouch.
During the interim period, David Gill, together with Alison Lloyd of the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea, organised an exhibition in the Glynn Vivian called 'The Face of Egypt' to show selected items from the Wellcome Museum, as well as items loaned from other Welsh museums, as a foretaste of the new museum. A student from Liverpool, Gareth Lucas, provided information for the catalogue. The exhibition proved a great success.
In 1997 the first professional curator was employed, Carolyn Graves-Brown, and in September 1998 the Museum was officially opened by Viscount St. Davids. Anubis was chosen as the new logo as he is not only an easily recognised Egyptian character, but, like the staff of the Egypt Centre, cares for the dead. In 1999 the Friends of the Egypt Centre was formed. A computer catalogue was produced, now accessible in the gallery, and in 2005 was put online. There are over 4000 objects, a few of which are detailed here. As well as the Egyptian items there are also a few classical artefacts.
The museum originally had one curator, partly funded by the Council of Museums in Wales. We now have four full-time members of staff, four part-time and over sixty volunteers. There are over four thousand artefacts in the collection, over 95 % of which are now catalogued, two galleries and a shop sales area and around 15,000 visitors each year. Now part of non-academic Business Services and reporting to the Taliesin Arts Centre manager, staff costs are funded by the University.
The success of the museum was largely due to unpaid individuals. Our volunteer programme made a virtue out of a necessity. Initially, lack of personnel forced reliance on volunteers, however, we have since turned this to advantage, using our volunteers to widen participation in the community. We now have a full time volunteer liaison officer who panders to their every need! Volunteers help in galleries acting as guides and leading school hands-on workshops. Workshop activities are very labour intensive with one leader working with six or seven children. A school usually visits for a day, and volunteers will normally work half a day or a day at a time. All paid and unpaid staff are vetted by the Criminal Records Bureau. We will accept volunteers with a criminal record but our real concern relates to child protection. Advice was taken from the Child Protection Agency and includes a strict written code for those working with children.