Thursday, January 26, 2017

UCL Petrie Collection Online Catalogue

UCL Petrie Collection Online Catalogue
Engraved tablet in the Petrie Museum
This is the searchable dataset for all 80,000 artefacts preserved in the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, with one photograph for each item. To start searching right away, click on 'Search' above.

The Museum houses one of the largest archaeological collections in the world for Egypt and Sudan. It is named after William Matthew Flinders Petrie (1853-1942), appointed in 1892 as first UCL Edwards Professor of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology. Over three-quarters of the material comes from excavations directed or funded by Petrie, or from purchases he made for university teaching. More information about the museum itself can be found at the Petrie Museum homepage.

Completeness of the Catalogue

Like any museum inventory, the Petrie Museum online catalogue is a hybrid of research publication and public/research access project. The following short history of the registration may help users to know what to expect from the contents.

1. Petrie and the Collection
Petrie himself kept no accession register, preferring to concentrate on publications for research and teaching, with simple inventories for each type or technology: from 1914 to 1937, he personally saw to publication volumes including Objects of Daily Use, Stone and Metal Vases, Weights and Measures, Scarabs, and Amulets – others were published posthumously from his notes, mainly by his widow Hilda.

2. Seventy Years Registering the Collection
Comprehensive registration began only in 1935, under his successor as Professor Stephen Glanville, who introduced the single-number “University College” sequence starting at UC001. In the following seven decades, broken only by the Second World War, dozens of staff and volunteers with different levels of research training, and varying amounts of time, contributed to the cataloguing project. From 1999 to 2002 the last 40,000 objects were registered and the whole collection put online with government funding through the Designation Challenge Fund. In 2005 six hundred items on loan to the National Museum of Science and Industry returned to be registered, taking the collection to UC80604.

As a result of the number of individuals and different levels of expertise involved, all information should be treated as a starting-point rather than an end in discovering more about the objects in the collection. Arguably, museums deliver exact data in only two areas: measurements, and date of acquisition – all other key fields, from material to dating to depend on unstated levels of research and subjective interpretation. For example, laboratory analysis is expensive, and so, as in most collections, the identification of material usually follows only quick inspection and general expectations: specific identifications are often given for stone and metal, but will need checking by analysis, while specific types of wood are rarely given, awaiting a larger research project of analyses. In this way, the process of revising the database can lead to important new research projects of scientific and historical research. The Petrie Museum curator is responsible for the updating of information, from research at UCL and worldwide, including the discovery of new parallels in fresh excavations in Egypt and Sudan. To keep this research in view, the web catalogue is regularly updated.

Many fields of information have not been entered yet, as research continues, particularly for the fields on inscriptions and the history of acquisition. The Museum also preserves important archives for material from Petrie excavations and purchases. Continuing research and conservation into these archival holdings is also contributing to the online catalogue.

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