The University of Manchester owns extraordinary artefacts from Roman Egypt in its collections. Faces&Voices wants to shed new light on these objects and make them more accessible to the academic community, the city and the wider audience. These artefacts are not only a fantastic opportunity for teaching and research, but also a patrimony of culture and beauty that deserves to be explored and valued.
The main aim of the exhibition is to give faces and voices to people living in Egypt in the Roman and Late Antique period through some portraits and writings they left behind, and that are now in Manchester.
Nonetheless there are also other faces and voices we want to see represented in the exhibition. First of all, those of the cotton magnates who invested in public collections in late-Victorian Manchester. Enriqueta Augustina Rylands (1843-1908) founded the John Rylands Library in memory of her husband John and sponsored the acquisition of Egyptian papyri among the many other manuscripts and books she purchased for the city. Jesse Howarth (1835-1921) started travelling to Egypt and collecting Egyptian artefacts after a lecture of Amelia B. Edwards, the famous writer of A Thousand Miles Up the Nile (1876), and later funded the excavations of Flinders Petrie in that country. Howarth donated his collection to the Museum and sponsored the building of an extension for the hosting of the Egyptian artefacts.
These two Manchester eminent citizens were at the centre of a wider network of scholars, archaeologists, papyrologists, librarians, curators and people to whom we want equally give faces and voices.
Finally, an inquiry on the meanings and the aesthetics of these artefacts seemed equally important to us and for this reason we started a conversation with the contemporary Egyptian artist Fathi Hassan that will offer a fresh (and beautiful) perspective on the issues, questions and thoughts past faces and voices opened to us.