National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh

Jane Miller, 15.06.2017
Revamping an Egyptian loan box
The community engagement team at National Museums Scotland (NMS) run an outreach loan box service called Museum2Go. The boxes contain real and replica objects relating to natural sciences and world cultures topics.

Over the past six months we have employed freelance learning specialist Sueve Mariner to revamp and repurpose our popular ancient Egypt loan box for onsite use and outreach school audiences.

The former ancient Egypt loan box was particularly popular with primary schools and in constant use. As a result many of the real items, including a genuine ancient Egyptian canopic jar, were suffering.

Mariner has developed two new handling boxes to coincide with an exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland, The Tomb – Ancient Egyptian Burial (until 3 September), which presents the story of one extraordinary tomb reused for more than 1,000 years. The exhibition is curated by Margaret Maitland, the museum’s senior curator of ancient Mediterranean collections at NMS.

We are also planning a capital project to create a new permanent ancient Egypt gallery, so the resources also looked towards this exciting redevelopment.

With the help of the exhibition’s curators, Mariner redeveloped the resource, retaining many of the genuine artefacts (including jewellery, shabti figures, and amulets) and supporting these with good quality replicas.

She paid huge attention to object packaging to safeguard objects while in transit, and worked with designers to create clear and user-friendly object cards for time-poor teachers.

Up-to-date research and techniques were included to showcase recent developments, such as a 3D printed replica of an amulet found in the wrappings of a mummified woman during MRI scanning.

The new boxes and their contents are now robust enough for constant use; clear enough in layout for ease of access; and strong enough in content to ensure their relevance for years to come.

We piloted the resource with local primary schools, accompanied on one occasion by NMS’s assistant curator Daniel Potter, which gave pupils a fantastic opportunity to speak to a leading Egyptologist.

The onsite schools resource is now being used in conjunction with visits to The Tomb exhibition, and the outreach resource has been piloted at an early doors event for autistic children and their families.

Jane Miller is the community engagement officer at NMS. Please contact her at for further information on the resource