From Mummies to Museums: In conversation with Angela Stienne

Friday 19 May 2023, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm

Room 106, School of Arts Building, 43 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PN 

A stereoscopic photograph of a museum display, with Egyptian sarcophaguses displayed raised at different levels on a table and plinths, behind railings. The display is crowded. Busts and reliefs are visible on the walls and mantelpiece in the background, from floor to ceiling. The images are presented in their embossed yellow stereoscope card.
Unknown artist, Egyptian sarcophagus room at the Louvre, Paris, stereoscopic photograph card, 1875-1899.

Mummified human remains are so present in European museums that we often fail to observe how incongruous their presence in glass cases in local museums really is. And yet, the history of Egyptian bodies in museums is incredibly pervasive and has been a staple of European culture for centuries: from race studies to displacement, histories of conquest and collecting, to debates over ethics and repatriation, the history of Egyptian mummified bodies in museums offers a unique lens to look at the museum, and to question both past practices and contemporary questionings.

We will journey from the Musée du Louvre to the British Museum, from Leicester Museum to the Pitt Rivers Museum, from eighteenth-century collecting to twenty-first-century removal, to explore ways in which the questions surrounding the collection, retention, study, and display of human remains is paradigmatic of the museum’s struggles with its own definition and mission, past and present.

A head and shoulders photograph of Angela Stienne: a white woman with blonde hair in a green suit jacket. Inset on the left is a book cover of Dr Stienne's book titled Mummified. A drawing of an Egyptian sarcophagus is on the cover, in red, with a beige background.
Dr Angela Stienne with her most recent publication, Mummified (MUP, 2022).

Dr Angela Stienne is a museum historian, storyteller, and founder of the project Mummy Stories ( that aims to make conversations on the ethics of human remains in museums accessible to all. She is the author of Mummified, The stories behind Egyptian mummies in museums (Manchester Uni Press, 2022) and an official tour guide at the Musée du Louvre in Paris.

Booking is essential. Please book your free place here.

Museum Work: Hierarchies and Barriers, Exclusion and Inclusion

Tuesday 23 May 2023, 9:30 am – 5:30 pm 

Workshop, AHRC Network series Making Museum Professionals 1850 – present

Keynes Library, School of Arts Building, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PN 

A photo of five people working with specimens on trays in a museum store. One is checking a list; the others are handling the items with gloves.
Student interns working on museum specimens at the University of the Philippines Los Baños Museum of Natural History.
Image: Wikimedia Commons. 

This event will consider particularly how hierarchies within and barriers to museum work have developed historically and are in evidence today, and how such hierarchies were and continue to be challenged and negotiated by those excluded and disempowered by museums. Confirmed keynote contributors so far include Professor Fiona Candlin (Birkbeck), Dr Errol Francis (Culture&), Louise McAward-White (Fair Museum Jobs) and Tamsin Russell (Museums Association).

Subsequent workshops of the network will consider 2) the development of training and career paths within museum practice (online, autumn 2023) and 3) transnational forces in the development of museum professionals (Berlin, spring/summer 2024).

This event is the first workshop in the AHRC Network series Making Museum Professionals 1850 – present.  

The Making Museum Professionals network responds to growing campaigns in the museum sector for fairer recruitment and career structures. Across the world, campaign groups have highlighted the systems of inequality facing many of those working in and with museums. This new network will support such campaigns for fairness, inclusion and transparency, by investigating the historical roots of the museum professions and the structures that supported them, from the birth of the modern museum (c. 1850) to the present day. It asks how museum professions came into being, and how they acted to produce particular competences and ways of working. Critically, the network also seeks to develop productive links between academics and museum professionals, creating spaces, practices and outputs for dialogue between past, present and future, and to conceptualise historical practice as a tool to improve accessible professionalisation today.

Everyone is welcome but booking is essential. 

For more information, call for papers, draft programme and booking, please click here.

Making Monuments from Mass Graves of the Spanish Civil War

A lecture by Dr Daniel Palacios González

Thursday 15 June 2023, Time TBC

Venue TBC

After the Spanish Civil War, unmarked mass graves were lasting traces of violence in communities traumatised by fear and unfinished mourning. Nevertheless, widows, militants, and unionists, among other community members, challenged the necropolitical order of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship. This research focuses on the meaningful gestures of producing images employing the bodies buried in mass graves from 1936 until now, on how people made monuments from mass graves.

This talk will first discuss how the production of monuments evolved and what forms they took, from floral offerings to large pantheons. In the second part, it will be discussed how, since the year 2000, the commemorative practices surrounding the victims of the war and dictatorship changed radically: as hundreds of exhumations took place, destroying many monuments, and the rhetoric on human rights and dignity was generalised in the discourses. But due to the low identification rates, the bodies were buried inside monuments again.

It will be shown how we are not dealing with simple reactions that respond to the formal logic of tradition, but, on the contrary, people who made monuments from mass graves look for a specific and rational end goal, a result based on planning and rationality. The monument becomes an expression of the historical consciousness of its producers. They communicated their memories in a meaningful gesture limited by the material reality integrating the bodies in constructing a new image. In this way, they seek to honour them and to influence society, not just bury the dead according to a funerary tradition or human rights standards.

Daniel is an art historian and social researcher. He works as a Margarita Salas Postdoctoral Researcher at the UNED and is visiting Birkbeck as an Honorary Research Fellow. He got his PhD in Art History at the Universität zu Köln as MSCA Fellow, and he holds a MA in Cultural Policies from the Université Lyon 2 and the Univerzitet umetnosti u Beogradu (UNESCO Chair) and, a MSc in Community Cultural Development from the Universidad de Oriente, Cuba. He is a member of the research project NECROPOL: From the Forensic Turn to Necropolitics in the Exhumations of Mass Graves from the Civil War at the Universitat de Barcelona. He has recently published his book De fosas comunes a lugares de memoria (From mass graves to sites of memory).

More details and booking to follow soon!