Curses! is a new exhibition exploring the history of maledictions in ancient Egypt, with surprises aplenty. Culture Trip went to the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology to find out more.
The Petrie Museum is one of London’s best-kept secrets. In a tiny space tucked away behind the sensory onslaught of Euston Road lies a treasure trove of artefacts including religious pyramid texts, artefacts from a late Middle Kingdom town and what is thought to be the oldest Egyptian garment in the world.
Along with 80,000 other items including carpenter’s tools, tomb maker’s equipment, hair curlers and children’s toys, the collection paints a vivid picture of everyday life in North Africa thousands of years ago.
Curses! guides visitors through the extensive collection while exploring the role of the supernatural in this ancient world and how Egyptians would seek vengeance against enemies (one way was smashing pots inscribed with the name of the person in question) or protect their material assets from beyond the grave.
The exhibition was conceived by multi sensory experience designers Bompas and Parr – the same team behind Future Forests and Beyond the Waterfall. The duo were inspired by statistics which suggest one in three Londoners have faith in the supernatural – one theory being that recessionary times have eroded trust in the material.
But there’s a catch. At the end of the tour visitors are themselves cursed and the only way to lift the hex is inviting two friends along and sharing the experience on social media using the hashtag #yourcurseormine. ‘We’re using the mechanics of a pyramid scheme to drive visitors,’ Sam Bompas tells Culture Trip.
I don’t consider myself superstitious, but waiting for my turn to enter the cursed installation I felt a deep sense of unease. It’s that emotional reaction that Bompas and Parr believe is key to making exhibitions more engaging. Gimmicks aside, the collection at the Petrie Museum is astounding and well worth a visit, curses or not!
Curses! is on at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology from 18th November until 16th December 2017. Tickets cost £6. For more information visit ucl.ac.uk/culture/petrie-museum.
You might also be interested in: Late-Night Treasure Hunting Offers a Museum Experience Like no Other.