Discovering Ancient Egypt - Hawick Museum.

Discovering Ancient Egypt

A new exhibition is bringing together fascinating objects and hidden stories from the collections of National Museums Scotland and our very own Hawick Museum to reveal how ancient Egypt has captivated Scotland over the past 200 years, as it still does today.

Discovering Ancient Egypt is a National Museums Scotland touring exhibition which examines Scotland’s contribution to Egyptology through the lives of three remarkable people whose work in the field helped to improve our understanding of ancient Egyptian culture.

An archaeologist, artist and astronomer, their skill, dedication and enthusiasm ensured that they each made a significant contribution to the study of ancient Egypt. Today’s Egyptologists are still making discoveries thanks to the important work they carried out.

Wick-born Alexander Henry Rhind (1833-1863) was the first archaeologist to work in Egypt, and a pioneer of systematic excavation and recording. On display will be objects from a tomb he excavated including a Book of the Dead papyrus belonging to a Prime Minister and inscribed wooden labels which were discovered with the mummified remains of ten princesses who shared the same royal tomb.

Based in Edinburgh, Charles Piazzi Smyth (1819-1900) served as Astronomer Royal for Scotland and carried out the first largely accurate survey of the Great Pyramid and the first-ever photography of its interior with his wife Jessie. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to see some of his instruments including a measuring rod he used to carry out this pioneering work.

Annie Pirie Quibell (1862-1927) was an Aberdonian who was one of the first women to study Egyptology and went on to work on significant excavations as an artist and archaeologist. She studied and excavated with W M Flinders Petrie, who is often described as the “father of Egyptian archaeology”.

Her artistic skill was put to great use recording the site and artefacts found, and academics today still study these drawings in their research. On display will be finds from one of the earliest temple sites in Egypt at Hierakonpolis– including a bowl decorated with very early hieroglyphs and a faience baboon, both of which are over 5,000 years old.

Complementing these fascinating pieces from National Museums Scotland’s collections will be a selection of objects from our Hawick Museum collections!

In 1906 Hawick Archaeological Society contacted Liverpool-based archaeologist John Garstang following an advert he had placed in The Times offering ‘a set of Egyptian pottery’ to interested institutions. These vessels were excavated by Garstang at the site of Esna and had been gifted to him by the Egyptian Antiquities Service to distribute to the supporters of his excavation. Visitors will have a chance to see these pots, which were added to their museum collection and reveal more about the lives of those who were buried in the ancient cemetery of Esna.

On 8 February 2019, three new galleries opened at the National Museum of Scotland. Dedicated to Ancient Egypt, East Asia and the Art of Ceramics, they are the final part a 15-year journey, restoring one of the UK’s finest Victorian buildings, revealing remarkable treasures and creating inspiring learning experiences to engage more visitors.

An innovative National Programme, funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and led by National Museums Scotland, extends the reach and impact of the Ancient Egypt Rediscovered and Exploring East Asia galleries beyond the National Museum’s walls to engage other museums and new audiences across Scotland.

The nationwide programme of activity aims to develop our understanding of the Ancient Egypt and East Asia collections held in local museums. National Museums Scotland is collaborating with museums around Scotland including Hawick Museum to explore their collections, share new information about them and provide new learning and digital resources for their visitors.

Discovering Ancient Egypt is on display at Hawick Museum from 8 March to 2 June 2019.


This is what Shona Sinclair, one of our curators, had to say:

“We are excited to be part of this tour, not least because we will be displaying the museum’s Ancient Egypt collection for the first time in over 10 years. Our Ancient Egypt collection is special and the only one in a museum in the Scottish Borders.

Alongside the exhibition we have created exciting learning opportunities and an events programme which will engage our core audiences but also reach out to others who may never have visited the museum. For the first time we will be offering Autism-friendly opening for families with children affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder and have developed a social story for the museum that is designed to help prepare groups or individuals who may need some familiarisation before they arrive. We have planned family fun sessions for school holiday times and for those who want to learn more about the subject we are hosting sessions and talks by the curators from National Museums.

Crucially, being selected as a partner for this high profile national programme provided an opportunity to upgrade our largest purpose built gallery to meet standards which will allow us to take part in this and in future ambitious projects. Key to the funding of this was a grant from the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund which purchased display cases and helped with the security upgrades required in the museum. We hope that this will provide a legacy for Live Borders, providing facilities which will encourage future partnership with National Collection organisations and engage with new audiences and stakeholders.”

Jilly Burns, Head of National and International Partnerships at National Museums Scotland added

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate with Hawick Museum to explore their collections and together reveal new stories about objects connected to ancient Egypt. This remarkable culture has enthralled museum visitors for generations and our National Programme is allowing us to research objects in local collections and enhance our understanding of collections held in museums around Scotland. This fantastic partnership is also allowing us to share skills and provide new national learning and digital resources across Scotland.”

 Riona McMorrow, Acting Head of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:

“Not everyone is able to travel to Edinburgh to visit the National Museum’s wonderful new galleries. However, thanks to funding raised by National Lottery players, the people of Hawick will be able to see a selection of its delights in their home town. Scotland has always had a fascination for Ancient Egypt and we are delighted that this touring exhibition will give people across the country the opportunity to share that fascination.” 

The Discovering Ancient Egypt tour will also visit:

Montrose Museum, Montrose: 8 June – 8 September 2019

The Baird Institute: 14 September – 14 December 2019


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