Ashmolean Museum completes Phase 2 of Rick Mather Masterplan: New Galleries of Ancient Egypt and Nubia
The Ashmolean Museum, established in 1683, is the oldest public museum in Britain. In 1999 Rick Mather Architects were appointed to develop a long term masterplan and expansion scheme to provide more space and 21st century facilities for its world renowned collections.
Phase 1 of the masterplan opened to much acclaim in 2009, doubling the museum's display space whilst utilising the tight existing footprint. The Ashmolean Egypt Galleries, completed in November 2011, are located to the west of the existing Cockerell building, and house an impressive collection of Egyptian artefacts.
The refurbishment of the galleries is phase 2 of the Ashmolean masterplan and deals with the redisplay of the previously dark and confusing arrangement . Key to the client's brief was to ensure a coherent display of the collection, as well as the successful display of objects that had been in storage for decades, more than doubling the number of mummies and coffins on display. The narrative of the new galleries takes the visitors on a chronological journey covering more than 5000 years of human occupation of the Nile Valley.
In addition to the re-display of the collection, including new display cases, the scheme also saw the formation of new openings and widening of existing doorways between galleries to assist visitor access and orientation, forming a new circular route through the suite of galleries. New lighting and environmental systems were also introduced to provide greater legibility and environmental control to the galleries in addition to closely monitored display cases for the more vulnerable objects.
Central to the scheme was the recreation of the Ruskin gallery as a gallery for pre-Dynastic Egypt. To make this possible the shop was relocated to a more central location liberating Cockerell's grand gallery space. Also significant to the scheme was the renovation of Stanley Hall & Easton and Robertson's 1939 Griffith Gallery where many of the original features, materials and glass vault have been uncovered and recreated. The centrepiece of this gallery is the Taharqa Shrine from Kawa (680BC) which is now properly illuminated to emphasise the carvings and set within new floor demarcations to indicate the architecture of the surrounding temple.