On 15 April 2016, we had a family trip to the Manchester Museum to see the Animal Mummies: Gifts for the Gods exhibition.
It was closing two days later, and moving on to the Kelvingrove in Glasgow. I’d offered to come and get a few photos to document the exhibition for Campbell Price, Curator of Ancient Egypt and Sudan (a friend of mine from my university days). I also did a brief interview with Campbell, about how the exhibition had gone, for my other blog, which you can read here.
The theme of the exhibition was the mummification of animals in Ancient Egypt – why they were mummified and the religious cults with which they were associated. The exhibition also covered the more modern archaeological history of animal mummies and the recent scientific research that’s been done on them.
It was a great exhibition; there was lots to see and learn, including:
- how the Egyptians mummified animals
- a reconstructed catacomb with statues and an offering prayer being read out in the Ancient Egyptian language
- a modern bird mummy that had been mummified by researchers that you could watch being scanned in real time
- masterpieces from the 19th century depicting Ancient Egyptians with animals
- smells of the mummification process; researchers had found that honey, pine and incense had all been used in mummification, and samples of these were available to smell
- a corner where you could write a message to the gods and emboss it with a hieroglyphic embossing stamp
It was a slightly tricky exhibition to photograph; as with many exhibitions, much of it was in lower light, with pieces accentuated by spotlights. This kind of lighting makes for a great atmosphere in the exhibition, but can be tricky to photograph without losing either shadows or brighter spots.
Also, the lower light meant I had to use a much wider aperture, but that means I had to sacrifice depth of field.
Ideally, I would like to have had the chance to do some focus stacking and bracketed exposures, but I was there while the exhibition was open, and it wasn’t often I got a moment when there weren’t other people in there moving around. And when I did, it wasn’t long enough to get more than a single shot.
I also had to be mindful of the fact that I was in there with a tripod and to not place it where other visitors might trip over it.
However, all things considered, I think my camera did very well in the low-light conditions and I got some good shots. I was particularly pleased with how the closeup shots of the 19th century paintings came out; I did those hand-held and they are really very clear and noise-free.
The exhibition is now showing at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow and is on until September. It’s then moving on to the World Museum in Liverpool, where it will be showing from October 2016 until March 2017. I’ll be back to revisit in Liverpool and will hopefully share some more photos. It’ll be interesting to see how the same exhibition looks in different venues.
[Edit, 2 November 2016: here are some behind-the-scenes photos of the exhibition being set up at the World Museum in Liverpool.]