Friday, 20 August 2010

Ashmolean unveils second big revamp for Egyptian galleries

A £5 million redevelopment is being planned at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum to showcase the museum’s world famous collections from ancient Egypt. Only eight months after the new Ashmolean was opened by the Queen following a £61million extension scheme, the museum has submitted plans to refurbish its Egyptian galleries.

The work would focus on part of the ground floor in the original Ashmolean building in Beaumont Street which was largely untouched by the major expansion.

The new scheme is being designed by Rick Mather, the architects responsible for the award winning museum extension, featuring six floors and a rooftop cafe, which were opened to the public in November.

It will complete the museum’s new Ancient World Floor, made up of galleries spanning the world’s great ancient civilisations, including Egypt, Rome and Classical Greece.

Ashmolean director Christopher Brown said: “Our Egyptian collections are among the finest in the UK, and the Predynastic and Protodynastic material is among the best in the world. However, the present galleries are dark and the objects are in crowded and confused displays.

“Now the first phase of the museum’s transformation has been completed, Rick Mather has produced an impressive design that will see a completely new interpretation and display of the Egyptian collections.

“This redevelopment will ensure these remarkable collections are given the prominence they deserve.”

The four existing Egyptian galleries will be refurbished and a fifth gallery created by transforming the Ruskin Gallery, now occupied by the Ashmolean shop which will move to the lower ground floor, next to the cafe.

The new Ashmolean is on track to welcome more than a million visitors in its first year, compared to about 350,000 annually before.

The building has been shortlisted for the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Stirling Prize 2010, with the winner to be announced on October 2.

The museum’s collections have included important Egyptian artefacts since 1683, when the museum was founded. The collection now contains about 40,000 objects, with some recognised as the finest outside Cairo.

The shrine of Taharqa, the largest free-standing ancient Egyptian building in the UK, and the human and animal mummies are still among the Ashmolean’s biggest attractions.

If planning approval is granted work would begin in October. The Egyptian galleries would be closed completely from January, reopening late next year.

Read more: The Oxford Mail

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