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In 2000 Egyptology was taken out of the National Curriculum in Wales. This could have been a serious blow to the Egypt Centre. However, activities are tailored toward other topics such as religion, art and design, etc. We even offer all-day maths! The exotic and romantic aspect of ancient Egypt is exploited to encourage the study of topics traditionally considered by some to be uninteresting. Teachers borrow the Egyptian mathematics exhibition for classroom display prior to visiting the Centre and participating in hands-on measuring, symmetry, etc. Of all hands-on activities, the most popular is undoubtedly the ‘dummy-mummy’. This rag doll has removable organs and a woolly brain which can be pulled out through the nose. It has amulets to be placed in the wrappings, a ‘cartonnage’ mask, and once it is prepared for the tomb, the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony can be performed by a child dressed as a sem priest. Click here if you want to find out more about our schools activities.

No changes are made to activities, nor new activities introduced, without volunteer input. While we have a number of ‘traditional’ volunteers whose help we welcome, we have also worked with Pathways Training and Job Force Wales to employ people with various difficulties. Their development after a few weeks here can be remarkable. One particular volunteer with learning difficulties is able to help undergraduate students studying the collection. Not only are volunteers socially and economically diverse, their age range also varies from ten years to eighty plus. Our child volunteer programme is particularly innovative. Saturday visitors to the museum may well be greeted by an enthusiastic child anxious to demonstrate Egyptian maths or reveal the secrets of mummification.

In 2004 the Centre was successful in gaining a Millennium Volunteer Award of c. £3000. This is used for volunteer training, trips to other museums, volunteer sweatshirts, etc. Additionally we were awarded an additional sum of £15,000 from the Barings Foundation to enable volunteers to take a more proactive role in the museum. Awards were given to three British museums which Barings felt were particularly innovative in their volunteer programmes. The project will form part of a study by Barings to be published for the benefit of other organisations. Although funding was for eighteen months the benefits will be long term.

This project aims to harness people’s interest in our work. We see our volunteers as an important means by which the wider community can become involved in the Centre. The scheme aims to enhance the volunteers’ feeling of real integration and ownership, as well as widen participation in the existing volunteer programme.

Volunteers are encouraged to select and interpret objects for display. By this means we hope to counteract the common criticism that museum curators interpret objects in a purely didactic way for a passive public. Open storage display drawers enable display of chosen artefacts. Presentations by volunteers are viewable by the visiting public via a plasma screen to be placed in the museum entrance.

Volunteer development classes have been expanded so as to attract new people. The needs of disabled groups are addressed with large format and Braille information sheets and audiotape guides are being developed. A volunteers’ newsletter is produced and volunteers opinions sought through questionnaires and focus groups.

Our other big success concerns out of school activities for disadvantaged children. We originally obtained c.£3000 for a pilot scheme from the lottery New Opportunities Fund (NOF), but now ensure the continuation of the scheme by fundraising ourselves.

 

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