John Taylor on Secrets of the Afterlife

Video | Updated 3 years ago

At the opening of Secrets of the Afterlife, we interviewed John Taylor, Curator, Ancient Egypt and Sudan at The British Museum, about his reflections on this blockbuster exhibition.


Interviewer: Firstly, Dr John Taylor, welcome to Western Australia, welcome to Perth.

John Taylor: Thank you.

Interviewer: You've curated this exhibition especially for the WA Museum you're intimately familiar with these objects because they've come from your museum, but tell us about seeing it here, in this environment here in Perth.

John Taylor: Well it's tremendously exciting to see these objects, here in Perth, because the installation here does a great job of bringing every object to life. A lot of these objects, which are displayed in the British Museum are often placed very close together, but here every object is separately focused, brilliantly lit so you can really study everything and fully extract all the information that is has to offer.

Interviewer: So, I guess, what gave you ... every exhibition is different, was there something that sort of excited you or gave you pause when you were pulling this one together?

John Taylor: I think in creating this show for Perth, it's been really interesting to get a balance between 3D objects and flat items like papyrus this is a special exhibition, because it focusses very much on the actual magical spells that the Egyptians used to get themselves into the afterlife. Other exhibitions will maybe give you one or two examples of papyrus with these spells, but here we have a whole range of different content, so that gives it a new dimension and it's really interesting to put those documents in context with the mummies and the masks and all the other objects so I think the visitor to this, they maybe have seen other Egyptian exhibitions, they won't see one quite like this.

Interviewer: So what would like audiences, perhaps three things, to take away from seeing this exhibition?

John Taylor: I think one thing that we want people to come away with is a sense they're connecting with the ancient Egyptians, that they are getting inside their minds and from seeing the spells and illustrations with the other objects, you get a real sense of their hopes and fears, what kind of things were on their minds during their lives and what they thought would happen to them after death. That's one thing. I think another one, is very much the sense of "you are making a visit here" to an ancient place, you can see things here that you will not otherwise see except by going to Egypt itself. You get a real sense of what it's like going into a tomb seeing all the objects laid out around a mummy. And then again, just the amazing quality of the objects, the high levels of craftsmanship and artistry that you see in these pieces these are some of the finest example of their types. So, you know, all of those things I think will give a really vivid impression of life in ancient Egypt.

Interviewer: So obviously these are British Museum objects, your objects so to speak what do you think of the exhibition, what do you think of how they've been displayed and shown and the stories that this has told?

John Taylor: I think the display here is excellent, it really, really makes the most of these objects every single piece of brilliantly lit, everything tell its story very clearly and actually go through, there's a really sense of making discoveries all along the way. The objects are very carefully laid out so that you're turning corners, entering news spaces, and every time you see a new group of pieces there's a revelation, there's a sense that this is something special so I'm very impressed really pleased with the way the show has been laid out.

Interviewer: We are very pleased that you are pleased. Dr John Taylor, thanks very much for your time today.

John Taylor: Pleasure.