Inspiring undergraduate students for primary research and community engagement

Katharina Zinn

University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Lampeter Campus, Ceredigion, SA48 7ED;

5th May 2017


This paper describes the processes involving the literal and cultural (re-)discovery of ancient Egyptian artefacts. The activities presented are the result of a cooperative project between Cyfarthfa Castle Museum and Art Galleries, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David – Lampeter Campus led by the author. Most of the artefacts had once formed the private collection of Harry Hartley Southey (1871-1917), son of a local newspaper magnate, and were bequeathed to the museum in the 1910ths and 1920ies having been still unresearched, mostly undervalued and in some cases uncared for in 2011.

The cultural (re-)discovery aims to bring these objects back to life by creating different simultaneous types of cultural representations via academic outputs, exhibitions, story-telling, and from next year onwards a museum of lies collecting fictional stories inspired by the items. This whole project is focused on “unpacking the collection”, to trace the “networks of material and social agency” (Byrne et al. 2011). In order to do that, participants are creating academic object biographies – making them available for Egyptologists – and tell stories around these artefacts which both satisfy the audience of the museum as well as other involved communities. This two-tier approach will connect these neglected objects with the identities of the several communities in which they are placed: the local community of Merthyr Tydfil in rural Wales – where the museum is situated and the collector originated from, students of UWTSD in Lampeter (about 75 miles to the West) who are becoming involved in primary research, the community around Lampeter. Here, annual exhibitions have been held since 2011, curated by the author with the help of heritage students and programmes involving ancient Egypt. These are accompanied by workshops with local school children on art and afterlife as part of their curriculum as well as home-schooled children.