Calling all budding writers! Stan needs YOU to find his voice and tell the world his extraordinary story.

Stan the T. Rex has been selected for a new Talking Statues competition, which invites storytellers to submit a short monologue from the perspective of their chosen statue.

The Talking Statues initiative is already up and running in Manchester with statues including Alan Turing and Abraham Lincoln sharing their stories with curious passers-by, thanks to scripts from dramatist Mark Ravenhill and author Gary Younge .

And now it’s the public’s turn to get creative and find a voice for our resident Mancunian theropod.

The winning piece is set to be recorded by a well-known actor and will be delighting visitors to the Fossils Gallery before the end of the year.

But who is Stan? Cretaceous bad boy or dreamy gentle giant? Grumpy old fossil or happy-go-lucky predator?

Here at Manchester Museum we’ve come up with a few ideas that we hope will inspire you to produce your own Stan story.

And if that’s not inspiration enough, you could check out our Stan the T. rex – A Day in the Life video or why not visit us and see him for yourself.

Check out the Talking Statues website for details on how to enter and all terms and conditionsClosing date for entries is 17 October 2014.

Finally, a big thank you to all the staff and volunteers who kindly took part in the video and special mention to Olga Gerke for that fab trio of Stan pictures.

(Warning: this article includes images of human remains)

One of the most popular galleries in any museum is Ancient Egypt, and in that gallery the biggest attraction is often a mummy. Manchester Museum is no exception; it is renowned for its extensive Egyptology collection, and especially its mummies. But where does this fascination come from?

Howard Carter’s famous discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922 made headlines worldwide, inspiring generations of would-be archaeologists, but also popularising Egyptology beyond the academic –ownership of the discipline was no longer exclusive to the university professor. This is something that continues today, the internet is proliferated with theories of curses and conspiracies, to vampires and aliens. However this public interest seems to have been spawned long before Carter   famously saw “wonderful things”. By the mid nineteenth century the animated corpse had already become a unit of gothic fictional currency, a role for which the Egyptian mummy was perfectly suited!

The display of human remains is a regularly debated subject in museum ethics, and whatever policy line an institution takes, it is unlikely to please everyone. The ‘Egyptian Worlds’ gallery at Manchester Museum, installed in 2012 as part of ‘Ancient Worlds’, displays 3 mummies, two Roman Period ‘Portrait Mummies’, who remain wrapped, and Asru, an elite lady from the 25th-26th Dynasty, who was already unwrapped when she came to the Museum in 1825. Asru is one of the focal points of the main gallery. She lies not on a shelf, objectified among pots and amulets, but in a free standing glass case, in her inner coffin, covered from collar bone to ankle in the same manner as the royal mummies at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. She is positioned away from the visitor’s direct eye-line, to allow the choice of whether or not to look.


Responses to a ‘museum mummy’ typically include curiosity, revulsion, pity, sadness, wonder… But perhaps most often they receive the reaction “Is it real?”

Although sometimes there is a temptation to tell the visitor, “No, that’s just one of the archaeology students on placement…” in a museum where one of the star attractions is a cast of a T-Rex, the mummy’s reality is perhaps a legitimate question. In all seriousness, however, this search for authenticity is at least partly responsible for the way the mummies have become fictionalised and romanticised.

In the 1800s it was typical for mummies to be given ‘mock contexts’, which Dominic Montserrat referred to as ‘biographisation’, filling in the gaps in historical knowledge with fictions and fantasies of their own invention; especially the eroticised and orientalised notion of unwrapping, or ‘undressing’ ancient Egyptian princesses. Asru came to Manchester as a ‘Temple Chantress’, a fictionalisation which lay unquestioned until very recently.

The mummy occupies a space somewhere between a living person and a corpse, and the attributes ascribed to this transitional body reflect the narratives and fantasies of the cultures which display them. As early as the fourth century BC, Greek historian Herodotus, already portrayed the Egyptian mummy as both sexualised and commodified, it was an exotic other that emphasised the cultural division between the Egyptians and the Romans. In England, by early Victorian times, with the gradual process of museumification, the mummy became objectified, though the status—at once human and artefact—remained problematic.

As the nineteenth century advanced, so did the academic interest in Egypt. As hieroglyphs became more readily translatable, mummies became “sociable bodies with recoverable histories” (Montserrat). The discovery of the ‘Faiyum Portrait Mummies’ and their perceived lifelike sensuality stimulated a desire for reconstruction; this also provided the potential for fictionalisation. It has even been alleged that Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ was inspired by the beautiful young men displayed in Petrie’s exhibition of mummy portraits in 1888 in London.

Portrait Mummy

In this way the mummy became at once decontextualized and sexualised. The naked, often fragmented body allowed the objectified mummy to become a museum spectacle, where the viewer might become voyeur. The mummy has been, and continues to be seen as something theatrical, with the unwrapping at the centre of the performance, be that the 19th century ‘unrollings’ or the virtual undressing of the 21st century CT scan.

Today we are in an age and society that is further removed from death than ever before. Death and burial have become institutionalised, and the preserve of professionals rather than families or communities. Consequently a museum’s Egyptian mummy is often the first dead body we see. However, as visitors we bring to this encounter our own mythologies and fictions; whether this is Scooby Doo, Lara Croft or Anne Rice, there is an ‘un-reality’ of their context in popular culture, and the mummy is already transformed within the imagination. Therefore at the point of confrontation, the response is often emotional rather than aesthetic.

Manchester Museum has been at the forefront of scientific research in the field of Egyptology since 1908 when Margaret Murray undertook one of the first interdisciplinary studies, with Khnum-Nakht famously unwrapped in a public lecture theatre, turning the discipline from a curiosity in a gentleman’s parlour into an academic study. The Manchester Mummy Project in 1975 saw Professor Rosalie David OBE make further advances in the field establishing the ‘Manchester Method’, following which the University of Manchester’s KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology has now been long established as a leading institution for continuing interdisciplinary research. And the museum’s current curator Ancient Egypt and Sudan, Dr Campbell Price and his team have scanned all of Manchester’s mummies at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, revealing new information and pathologies.


There seems to be a general consensus that mummies should be treated with respect, but who defines respect? What’s the answer? Should we ‘humanise’ our mummies? Should we reconstruct their faces and explore their lives? Should we look inside and analyse their pathologies? Or is that just creating another fiction? Perhaps there is no longer a line that separates fact from fiction…

Michelle Scott

Follow the Manchester Musem Visitor Team: @VisitMM on Twitter, and VisitMM on Vine

One of the deepest absurdities in culture is the acknowledgement of sexual symbolism – not only in everyday life, but also in art history. Here are some prominent examples of  objects at Manchester Museum that do this:


In Ancient Egypt as far as fertility goes,  men were not usually thought of as the problem if a woman could not get pregnant; however, if a man who was married to multiple women did not get any of his wives pregnant, they would say he is “not a man”. The wish to have children was essential. These figurines emphasise the hair, hips, breast and genital area. They signified fertility and rebirth in the afterlife and were put into the tombs.


Egyptian Penis Sheaths

The penis sheath was an essential element to a man’s costume in Ancient Egypt. They would wear clothes that emphasized the front of a man’s body. A traditional male garment was a simple kilt made of leather, hide or linen that was wrapped around the hips. The emphasis put on the genital area was due to it being regarded as sacred because of it’s role in procreation. These sheaths were made of ivory which also protected them in battle and against insect bites, rather than as a contraceptive.


The God Min

Min was the Ancient Egyptian god of reproduction. He was associated with the desert and the usual depiction of Min showed him as a human with an erect phallus. He was also associated with the Egyptian long leaf lettuce, which was considered to be an aphrodisiac as it secreted a milky substance which was like semen. The Egyptian paintings and relief’s on tomb walls and temples didn’t show Min’s other arm, but the statues of the god show him with his hand encircling the base of his penis. During the New Kingdom period he was sometimes shown as a white bull, an animal sacred to the fertility god.

The God Bes

Bes was an Egyptian dwarf god. Although he protected women and children, he was the god of war, humour, music, dancing and is associated with sexual pleasure. He is depicted with a leonine face with his tongue sticking out and is usually stood bow legged with penis prominent and a lions tail. Because Bes drove away ill humour and evil he became a sign of joy and good humour to the every daily life of the people.


Nkisi Mangaaka

Nkisi Mangaaka is a power figure from the Kongo people of Angola. The figure like this example from our Living Cultures gallery protects people against witchcraft, disease, lawbreakers and helped to keep peace. Nkisi Mangaaka is neither Male nor female, which makes the figure androgynous. The figure has been carved to look powerful, strong and has a threatening shape with thick arms and legs. By nailing in a piece of metal,  people involved in a problem or dispute showed their promise to abide by the decision. Breaking that oath might have dangerous consequences. Packed into the open belly were healing herbs and it also carried oaths made by individuals before the community.

Nkisi Collage

Fertility Dolls

These dolls were used by Asante (Ashanti) tribe from Ghana. The objects were carried by women or girls to ensure that they would bear healthy babies. Their shape, colour and details may vary according to the particular group of Akan from which they come. Families that lost a number of children would cut markings in the cheeks so that the spirits that loved children would be misled and not return to them in the spirit world. Women also used to dress them in cloth, jewellery and carve hairstyles along the edges. Sometimes fathers buy or make these dolls for their daughters to play with, believing that this will influence them to be child-bearing in adult life.


Diverse cultures are found all around the world, with many different traditions and beliefs, many of which you probably weren’t aware of! Why don’t you come and visit Manchester Museum and find out more about the intriguing and interesting objects of different cultures.

Post by Shaun Bennett

Staff at the Manchester Museum and the Whitworth Art Gallery are becoming part of a wider dementia friendly community due to a new Government funded initiative run by the Alzheimer’s Society and supported by the University of Manchester as part of their commitment to social responsibility.

Having recently attended an Alzheimer’s Society-led training session in order to become a Dementia Friends Champion I am now able to invite staff from the two organisations to 50-minute information sessions, where they learn a bit more about what it’s like to live with dementia and where to find further information.

At the end of the session attendees are asked if they are happy to commit to a positive action in the workplace or at home, and thus become a Dementia Friend. No action is too big or too small. From being more patient the next time somebody is struggling at the till at the supermarket to spreading the word about dementia on Twitter this all helps to create a more dementia friendly community.


By the end of the summer I hope that all staff within the Museum and Gallery can call themselves a Dementia Friend. The University of Manchester aims to recruit and train 30 Champions by the end of the 2014 academic year and 1000 Friends by August 2015.

Part of my remit as a Dementia Friends Champion is to run sessions beyond the Museum and Gallery, for anyone to attend. The first of these public sessions will run on Wednesday 23 July at 12pm in the Kanaris Lecture Theatre at Manchester Museum. To book a free place head here. To find upcoming public Dementia Friends sessions in your local area please click on this link.

Coming to an art gallery near you is a 3-D view of one of Manchester Museum’s most popular displays.

Artist Jenna Rouse has captured the Living Worlds gallery using a stereoscopic film camera (a camera with two or more lenses) and the fantastic results are set to feature in her forthcoming exhibition.

The redeveloped Living Worlds gallery (2011) has proved a great source of inspiration to visiting artists and art students thanks to its innovative blend of natural history, personal stories and provocative displays.

From a floating herd of paper cranes representing the wishes of a dying girl in Hiroshima in the ‘Peace’ display, to the plaster casts of the Pompeii dead in the ‘Disasters’ case, and LED light displays about climate change within the ‘Weather’ cabinet, the gallery is full of arresting visual pieces and captivating emotional narratives.


Living Worlds

The ‘Bodies’ cabinet in particular caught Jenna’s eye and is the subject of one of the haunting images (see below) that form part of her current project, Stereoscopic Adventures.

She explains: “My practice explores natural history museums and the specimens housed within them, using photography to entrap them within a world of my own making.The Stereoscope produces a three-dimensional image of the world by interlocking two flat images allowing the audience to literally behold and possess what has been placed before the lens.

“The work is 2m x 1m printed onto fabric and aims to create an overwhelming experience and adventure of natural history museums and the specimens they are home to”.

jennarouse N0541001 ManchesterMuseumStereo2014

Jenna Rouse

Jenna adds: “The stereoscopic relics created allow the observer to have an experience with natural history specimens. A thin slice of time is taken and frozen within a photograph, stolen and preserved in a tangible and nostalgic afterlife. The photograph is like a fossil, fixed in limestone”.

The images will be on display at the Surface Gallery in Nottingham between September 19th and October 5th.

Meanwhile, if you want to know more about Manchester Museum and its current artistic goings-on then check out Boff Whalley’s ‘Blog’ for details of the Wonder project in collaboration with People United.

And finally, a huge thank you to Jenna for sparing the time to talk to me about her work and for sharing her images.

Post by Louise Thomas

ImageWhen our new exhibition, ‘From the War of Nature’ came to the museum I looked around and to my surprise I noticed that they had a Timber wolf.

I have always loved this  majestic animal, so powerful and beautiful to look at. My favourite species of wolf. It is also, the biggest. Canadian Northwestern wolves are one of the largest subspecies of wolves, with adult males weighing between 100 and 135 pounds (45–61 kg). So to be able to see a specimen like this up close, to see just how huge these creatures really are, was such a thrill.

The wolf is seen all over the world, in many different forms and across different cultures throughout history. In some societies, they are seen as spiritual beings or as guardians, however in some instances they are shown in a less favourable light. Some people viewed them as creatures that were harbingers of evil and death, a bad omen.  In today’s society, the wolf features prominently in popular culture, with portrayals in many works of fiction from books to television and movies. Many of the werewolf stories that we hear about today will have originated in folklore from different cultures. They all seem to tell a tale or legend about wolves from every corner of the world. Below are just a couple of them.

One story that people may have heard of, is the legend of how Rome was founded. It is said that a wolf was responsible for the childhood survival of the future founders, the twins, Romulus and Remus.  Their uncle Amulius ordered the twins to be killed.  However, the man ordered to kill them could not bring himself to do it. He placed the children on the banks of the Tiber River, but at the time the river was flooding. Luckily for the twins, it carried them gently further down the river, under the protection of the river deity Tiberinus. They were then adopted by a she-wolf known as Lupa, sacred to the god Mars. The wolf is the national animal of the modern Italian republic.

In ancient Egyptian mythology we have a tale about a wolf, Wepwawet, a war deity. His name means, ‘opener of the ways’ and he is often shown as a wolf standing at the bow of asolar-boat. In some interpretations, Wepwawet was seen as some sort of scout, going out to clear routes for the army to advance forward. One inscription from the Sinai states Wepwawet “opens the way” to King Sekhemkhet’s victory (little else is known about this Kings’ reign).In later Egyptian art, Wepwawet was depicted as either a wolf, a jackal or a man with the head of a wolf or jackal. Even when considered a jackal, Wepwawet was usually shown with grey or white fur, reflecting his lupine origins.

Amongst the Native American tribes of North America and Canada, the wolf is a very powerful and much revered symbol. and they have many legends pertaining to the wolf. The Navajo tribe is known for its belief in shape-shifters. They call such people ‘skin walkers’ or ‘yee naldlooshi’ in the Navajo tongue, which means “with it, he goes on all fours”.


The Struggle for Existence (1879) by George Bouverie Goddard

The bear has always been the sacred animal of the Finns, in comparison, wolves have been killed mercilessly. In Finnish folklore the wolf is a feared and hated animal, hunted to near extinction. This is due to the wolf having been represented as a ruthless and malicious predator, killing more than it eats.

These types of stories have contributed to the depiction of wolves in fiction, and also inspired authors across a range of genres. From the old ‘big bad wolf’ stories to their portrayal as mean, nasty creatures in the horror genre or more recent romanticised films such as the ‘Twilight’ series.

There are many societies around the world that have a ‘tail’ to tell about wolves. However, the wolf is both admired and loathed. Is this perhaps how they are portrayed in such stories?  To me, they are just like any other species on earth, trying to stay alive and look after their families.

Post by Maxine Byrne


Last week, as part of Dementia awareness week, a group of us from the Museum and Whitworth Art Gallery went over to Nowgen at the  Hospital  for The Grand Dementia Exhibition. The Exhibition was a chance for groups to come together and share experiences and learning around the topic of dementia care. This was more than just a chance not just to show off what we do but an opportunity to connect with potential partners.

I would like to say I had the chance to see all the stands but in the time I was there we were quite busy. Throughout the day we took shifts on the stand so each one of us could show the work we have been developing in our smaller groups. Rachel and Wendy were showing the Montessori based Resources they had developed using the Museum’s collection, Ed has developed an iPad app and Lawrence was showing his Treasure Box resource which he covered in a previous post.

IMG_2650Myself and Andrea were highlighting the Museum Comes to You offer. This particular strain of Museum Comes To You involves taking a box of objects out to local groups living with dementia. All the objects in the box have some kind of link with Manchester and the main aim is not learning but sharing experiences. We use all the objects in the box to provoke conversation and get participants sharing memories. The best objects, in my opinion, are the ones relating to Belle Vue zoo as all the people I have spoken to have many fond memories of the place.

In the couple of hours we were there at the Grand Dementia Exhibition we had many people approach us about what we do, as many of the health care practitioners were unaware of the services available to them, especially ones so close to the hospital.  Hopefully this exhibition will have been an exercise in sign posting services and showcasing what museum’s and galleries have to offer.


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