National Museums Scotland - Museums Association

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National Museums Scotland

Ancient Egypt and East Asia National Programme

The Ancient Egypt and East Asia National Programme, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, was a partnership project working with museums across Scotland to uncover new and interesting stories about their ancient Egyptian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean collections.

The project included the touring exhibition Discovering Ancient Egypt, which travelled to Hawick Museum, Montrose Museum, the Baird Institute, Cumnock, Perth Museum & Art Gallery and the John Gray Centre, Haddington between March 2019 and April 2021. The exhibition attracted 19,132 visits to the first four venues, with an uplift of more than 40% in visitor figures from 2015/16 achieved at two venues.

With additional support from the Museums Association’s Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, Revealing Stories provided opportunities to engage with ancient Egyptian and East Asian collections across Scotland with a focus on breaking down barriers to access and inclusion. We worked with touring partners to develop sensory backpacks for children and young people with autism and their families visiting the exhibition.

Loans of East Asian collections to Perth Museum & Art Gallery, the University of Aberdeen, Kirkcudbright Galleries and Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries received a total of 54,973 visitors across the four partner museums and more than 3,000 people were reached through audience engagement programmes at these museums.

Perth Museum & Art Gallery focused its activity programme around the creation of a Community Robe inspired by the East Asian collections at Culture Perth and Kinross. Local community groups and schools were invited to work in collaboration with independent artist Jill Skulina and the learning team at Perth Museum and Art Gallery to decorate panels of a robe with designs inspired by the exhibition, Dress to Impress. The panels created by each group were then sewn together by the artist to create the Community Robe.

Revealing Stories also enabled two national collection reviews to be undertaken: Ancient Egyptian Collections in Scottish Museums and East Asian Collections in Scottish Museums revealed detailed insights into collections held in museums across Scotland, identifying significant objects and connections between collections.

We piloted a framework for measuring social impact of audience engagement with ancient Egyptian and East Asian collections. We developed this framework based on the feedback from colleagues at our Social Impact Symposium in November 2018, the Museums Association’s Measuring Social Impact Toolkit and the Scottish Government’s National Performance Framework. The toolkit was piloted by partner museums, who engaged with autistic children and young people and their families.

The project also supported skills development for local museum staff and volunteers, which aimed to increase confidence in working with these collections and delivering programming to new audiences, particularly audiences with additional support needs. A total of 14 workshops provided 99 training experiences to 71 museum staff and volunteers from 25 organisations across Scotland, enabling them to discover new information about their ancient Egyptian and East Asian collections and promote wider engagement with local audiences.