Rekindling my Passion for Ancient Egypt in Vancouver

I have just returned from a two week trip to Vancouver, where I visited my family and celebrated my mom’s sweet 60th birthday. It is hard to believe that it has been three years now that Hannah and I moved to Canada’s largest city, Toronto. Flying back to Vancouver was not only a great chance to meet up with family and friends, but I also decided to rekindle my passion for Egyptology in Vancouver.

Approaching the cultural hub that is Granville Island
Approaching the cultural hub that is Granville Island

Just before I left for Vancouver I was President of the Vancouver chapter of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities for two years and we organized a rich lecture programme of wonderful speakers here. Aside from also teaching for SFU Continuing Studies on a variety of topics, I also devoted a lot of time to investigating the small, but wonderful collection of ancient Egyptian objects at the Museum of Vancouver (MoV).

The Museum of Vancouver (right) next to the Planetarium (left)
The Museum of Vancouver (right) next to the Planetarium (left)

The MoV’s Curious Egypt collection

On my second day, I drove to the museum to meet many of the objects I previously studied close up again. The most well-known piece of the collection is the mummy of a young adolescent boy, who came into the possession of the museum only in 1922. Wrapped up still with his head exposed, the mummy is not in storage, but also not exactly on display, hiding away in an empty room behind the permanent exhibit. The collection itself is composed of a handful of shabtis, amulets, and scarabs, but also boasts several animal mummies (one of a crocodile among my favourites!) and a wonderful example of a wooden stela. I also met briefly with the Curator of Collections and it was great to catch up – more on that another day.

In quenching my thirst, I rediscovered the delicious Apricot Wheat Ale, which is brewed by Pyramid Brewing out of Seattle – a brewery, whose beer I have so far not been able to locate in Toronto. Given the warm climate in Vancouver (mid 20s C), it was a great way to cool off in Egyptological fashion.

In Apricot Wheat Ale Heaven
In Apricot Wheat Ale Heaven

Finding Egypt amidst Ever-Changing UBC

Toward the end of my trip, I made the big trek out to UBC, which I attended for my undergrad. Back when I first began my studies, I vividly remember the Learning Commons within the old, traditional building of the Main Library. In a quest for a book, you’d make your way past narrow shelves and are hit with the odors of old and pricey books. Afterward, you could settle for UBC famous cinnamon knots and a cup of coffee in the study area nearby. Over the course of the last 15 years, the university has not only greatly expanded, but also remodeled some of the older buildings. Gone are the wings of the Main Library and only its core remains. The Student Union Building was also completely remodeled. I nearly didn’t recognize the core of UBC, since I was here last in 2014 – two years!

Looking at the New Main Library
Looking at the New Main Library

I paid a visit also to the Museum of Anthropology, whose collection focuses on the local cultures of First Nations. The building was originally designed by famous Canadian architect, Arthur Erickson, who also left his mark at Simon Fraser University. Within its collection, however, there are close to 400 objects that come from ancient Egypt. The museum had purchased a large group of artifacts from a private collector in 1956 and also acquired many more objects through private donations. In total, the collection is an excellent teaching collection and has been used as such in UBC’s department of Classical, Near Eastern, and Religious Studies. I had a chance to have a closer look and will have to write a more detailed post on this in due course.

The First Nation centred collection at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC
The First Nation centred collection at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC

After looking at these objects, I met up for lunch in the museum cafeteria with my professor from my undergraduate times, Dr Thomas Schneider. He has been at UBC since 2007 and has truly established Egyptology as a discipline at UBC. He was also a catalyst in getting the SSEA chapter there off the ground and has recently devoted his research to exploring the influence of Nazi Germany on Egyptology – publishing a book in the process. In my last visit, I had the privilege of speaking about his life in a short interview as part of Ancient Egypt Alive’s video series “Conversations with Egyptologists“.

The two weeks, of course, went by way too fast, though I am excited about what lays in store in the near future.

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