Material in the Oriental Museum's Ancient Egyptian collections ranges from the Pre-Dynastic to the Coptic periods in date and includes a wide selection of objects ranging from monumental sculpture to woven sandals. Items of exceptional quality include the unique 18th Dynasty boxwood carving of a Nubian servant girl, the painted boxes of Perpawty and the fine granite statue of Paser, Mayor of Thebes and Vizier under kings Seti I and Ramesses II.
The majority of the museum's Ancient Egyptian collection comes from two sources; the Northumberland Collection and the Wellcome Collection. The fourth Duke of Northumberland's Egyptian collection was one of the premier private collections of the 19th century, including more than 2,500 objects. It was aquired by Durham University in 1947 thanks to the generous support of Mr H N Spalding and the wishes of the Duke's successors that the collection remain intact and in the North East of England.
Henry Wellcome, a founding partner of the well-known drug company, amassed one of the largest private collections ever made in the fields of archaeolgy, anthropology and the history of human health. After his death in 1936, it took more than 50 years for his Trustees to distribute the collection among museums and libraries across the UK. The Oriental Museum was fortunate to receive a collection of around 4000 Egyptian artefacts.
The strengths of the museum's collections therefore strongly reflect the interests of these two collectors. The Northumberland collection features many inscribed stelae and other smaller inscribed objects which highlight the development of the Egyptian language and script over time, reflecting the Duke's interest in the Egyptian language. Likewise, his interest in establishing Egyptian chronology is reflected in the high number of objects bearing royal names. Meanwhile the Wellcome collection's strengths lie particularly in the areas of stone tools and pre-dynastic objects, together with amulets of all periods.
These core collections have been supplemented with targeted purchases, other small donations and material from archaeological excavations at Qasr Ibrim, Buhen and Saqqara carried out by WB Emery and the Egypt Exploration Society in the 1950's and 1960's with the support of Durham University.
The importance of the collections was recognised in 2008 when they received Designated Status from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council as being of national importance.
North East Ancient Egypt Society (NEAES)
The Oriental Museum regularly acts as a venue for events and lectures organised by the NEAES. This society welcomes people of all ages, experience and levels of knowlege about Ancient Egypt. More information on NEAES events and other events in the region focused on Ancient Egypt can be found at the North East Ancient Egypt Society website.