London Drum

Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UCL

Petrie Museum
Where? Petrie Museum, University College London, Malet Place, Bloomsbury · Web: Opening times? 1 PM to 5 PM (Tue-Fri); 11 AM to 5 PM (Sat) Visiting hours may change Price? Free Time required? A typical visit is 45-60 mins Parking: Nearby car parks Buses: 10, 14, 24, 29, 73, 134, 390 Bus fares Trains: The closest station is Goodge Street Northern Other nearby stations: Euston, Euston Square and Warren Street Train fares

Craig’s review… The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology is situated inside the grounds of University College London so you have to stroll past all the students to reach it. Normally I’d feel like a fish out of water amongst all the scruffy kids but luckily I’m even more scruffy than them today, so I don’t think they’ve noticed the interloper within their midst.

I’m guessing that it’s staffed by the students themselves because when I walked up to the door at 11 AM and pressed the intercom buzzer by the window a snoozy voice came on to say they don’t open for another two hours. I think I must have disturbed his sleep.

University College London

It was whilst I was waiting for 1 PM that I realised how young all the students are (or maybe I’m just getting old). I had a picture in my head of UCL being full of bespectacled Alan Turing-type geniuses, weighed down by a satchel full of files and folders, but of course it’s nothing like that at all – they’re all twenty-year-old kids wearing chunky headphones and marijuana t-shirts. That could have been me once because I actually won a place at UCL to study Egyptology. But being the dumb idiot that I am I quit the course before I even started. I wonder what job I would have ended up with, because there’s not much demand for Egyptologists in London. If I played my cards right I could have had my own pyramid by now. Ah well.

One hour later… well that was disappointing.

When you read their website they give you the impression that the shelves are all dark and dusty and stacked with magical artefacts. “Lighting within the museum is less than ideal,” it says, “and we offer the visitors the loan of torches.” Well it’s not like that at all… they’ve got two wooden sarcophagi at the very far end but that’s about it for the big stuff. We’re not talking Tutankhamun’s tomb here. There’s nothing on show that Indiana Jones would want to steal. How can I best describe it? They’re the kind of things that you might find on an ancient Egyptian skip – cracked cups, busted bowls and bits of broken pottery. I’m sure that it must be very interesting if you’re a serious scholar or a student, but for everyone else it’s just shards on shelves and cabinets crammed with crockery.

Funerary stele and hieroglyphs

They’ve got piles of brooches, bangles and beads, a lot of combs and cutlery, and the inevitable collection of stones and broken bits of flint. They’ve got some quite a lot of funerary stele and stone slabs with carvings and hieroglyphs on, but nothing that’s going to knock your socks off.

The most interesting exhibit was a cabinet full of death masks where people’s portraits have been painted on shaves of wood. It’s quite interesting to stare at a lifelike face from two thousand years ago because judging by the picture I don’t think we humans have changed much in two thousand years; we still have a short back and sides at the barbers, and are still too lazy to shave our stubble off.

So to sum up then, don’t bother coming unless you’re a scholar. If you’re a tourist with an interest in Egyptology then you should definitely head for the British Museum instead. But don’t get me wrong… I’m not having a moan, because this museum is clearly meant to be an educational adjunct to the university, and not a stop on the tourist trail. So if you come with that in mind then maybe you’ll enjoy it.

Worth a visit? Value for money? freeGood for kids? Easy to get to?

I also recommend… If you enjoy this then try British Museum (you can walk it 10 mins); Cleopatra’s Needle (walk it in 26 mins or catch a tube from Goodge Street to Embankment) and Sir John Soane’s Museum (walk it in 18 mins or take a tube journey from Goodge Street to Holborn)

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Your comments and questions

Benp Hi, do they have any big statues like in the British Museum?

Craig Hi BenP. They have lots of small statues and inscriptions, but there's nothing of monumental size like in the British Museum. Most of their collection is made up of pottery. Basically, if it doesn't fit inside a cabinet, then it won't be in here

Thea This is a small but very interesting museum for people interested in Egyptian history. They have a copious amount of pottery and plentiful examples of Egyptian art from different dynasties. I only wish that it was bigger

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