Another highlight of the second week of my placement was getting to visit the Eton Myers Collection of Egyptology and work with some of the collection items.
The objects in the collection were collected by Major William Joseph Myers (1858-1899) in Egypt. Myers started collecting in the 1880s, quickly amassing a collection of many wonderful and treasured objects. When he passed away in 1899, he bequeathed the collection, his diaries and libraries to Eton College, where he had studied. The collection has been loaned to the University of Birmingham for the purpose of further research into the context and cultural significance of the objects.
I attended a public tour and a talk about the current exhibition delivered by the current curator of the collection, Stephanie Boonstra. Stephanie discussed the history of the collection and the context in which these objects were collected in the late 19th Century. We learnt about the iconic Egyptian blue faience in the collection. The technique used to manufacture these faience objects was to mix crushed quartz or sand with small amounts of calcite lime and alkalis into a paste and form it into the desired shape. Faience is considered to be more similar to glass than to ceramics, as it contains no clay and uses the same main components as are used in glass manufacture. The brilliant blue luster of the glazed outer surface is caused by copper pigments in the soda lime silica glaze. There are a number of varying techniques of application of the glaze, including efflorescence glazing, cementation glazing and vapor glazing. Experts are able to closely examine the glaze on the objects and this can help to determine the manufacturing processes.
In the afternoon, I was fortunate to be able to work with the objects. I feel so honoured to have been able to handle these highly significant objects, some of which were approximately 3500 years old. I measured the objects using a ruler and electronic calipers so that the collection catalogues could be updated with these details.
I am very thankful for the opportunity to learn more about and work with these fascinating objects. I would like to thank Stephanie Boonstra for welcoming me into the Eton Myers Egyptology Collection and for sharing her vast knowledge about the collection with me.