Secret Egypt at Tullie House

A partnership approach to tours

Chris Kirby, 16.02.2015
A collaboration between the Herbert and Birmingham Museums
Secret Egypt first opened at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry in 2011 and drew record numbers. The exhibition comprised loans from several Egyptology collections around the UK but predominately from Birmingham Museums.

After touring to another venue many of the loans had to be returned. The exhibition was then redesigned to include only loans from Birmingham‘s reserve collection. An agreement was made to pay Birmingham a percentage commission from each hire.

A tour of Secret Egypt to two venues in the West Midlands was also subsidised by money from Arts Council England’s (ACE) major grant funding allocated to encourage loans from the Birmingham collections to museums in the region.

To date, the exhibition has been seen at seven other UK venues and is booked for a further three over the next year. So far the exhibition has been seen by 140,000 visitors. Income from it has funded a part-time touring exhibition officer who has helped to develop other tours.

In addition to the successful partnership with Birmingham and the link to strategic funding from ACE, Secret Egypt has had wider ramifications for several museums in the UK.

Some had never accommodated an exhibition of this complexity and size before. Through the experience, they gained greater confidence in managing exhibitions of this nature and how to market and support them to visitors and schools. There is now an expression of interest to tour Secret Egypt to Australia.

Chris Kirby is the head of collections and learning at Culture Coventry