University of Oulu

Exhibiting and visiting Egypt of glory : knowledge construction of ancient Egypt in Amos Rex museum in the fall of 2020

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Author: Koskela, Anni1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Humanities, Cultural Anthropology
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 2 MB)
Pages: 80
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Oulu : A. Koskela, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-12-15
Thesis type: Master's thesis
Tutor: Heikkinen, Hannu
Norum, Roger
Reviewer: Heikkinen, Hannu
Norum, Roger


This thesis is about the ways in which knowledge is constructed in a museum context. It is based on a case study of Egypt of Glory -exhibition, which was on display at the Amos Rex Art Museum in Helsinki from the 9th of October 2020 to the 21st of March 2021. The research data was gathered during a period of one month, beginning from the 5th of October 2020 and ending on the 5th of November 2020. The main research objective is to explore ways in which knowledge about ancient Egypt is constructed in the Egypt of Glory exhibition. This objective is divided into smaller research questions aimed at examining the educational and exhibitionary practices of the exhibition as well as the principles and goals which guided the staff who created them. Visitor perspectives are also considered to find out how the exhibition design influenced visitors’ learning and how visitors themselves participated in the knowledge construction processes.

Qualitative data was gathered with ethnographic methods, namely interviews and participant observation. Of the staff members, the museum director, head of curation, two curators, the consulting Egyptologist, the head of education, a curator of education, the communications intern, and two guides were interviewed (n=10). Visitors were observed in the gallery, and participatory walking sessions were arranged with consenting visitors. These sessions were preceded and followed by interviews regarding the participants’ perceptions of ancient Egypt and their visitation experiences. Quantitative data was also collected with questionnaires, which received 196 respondents. The questionnaires focused on demographic factors as well as visitors’ opinions and thoughts on the exhibition and its topic.

Research data is analyzed through a constructivist lens by examining the poetics and the politics of exhibiting. Visitor experiences are dissected through the theoretical frameworks of the Contextual Model of Learning (Falk & Dierking 2012) as well as The Object Knowledge Framework (Wood & Latham 2014). The contextual model of learning is designed to examine the totality of the visitor’s experience (Falk & Dierking 2012). The object knowledge framework zeroes in on the interaction between the objects on display (the objectworld) and the visitor’s persona (the lifeworld) (Wood & Latham 2014)

The study finds that the objectives and principles of the staff emphasize respectful discussion on ancient Egypt with an aversion to mystifying and exotifying display practices. This led to specific exhibitionary and educational practices directed to communicate the diverse and changing culture of ancient Egypt over the 3000-year period of its existence. Guided by their own interests, pre-existing knowledge, and prior experiences, visitors interacted with the exhibition in individual and unique ways. While the visit did result in changes in perception of ancient Egypt, their interpretations of the exhibition’s messaging diverged somewhat from that of the staff. Therefore, this thesis concludes that knowledge about ancient Egypt was constructed in a collaborative process which resulted in diverse and individualized narratives.

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Copyright information: © Anni Koskela, 2022. Except otherwise noted, the reuse of this document is authorised under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC-BY 4.0) licence ( This means that reuse is allowed provided appropriate credit is given and any changes are indicated. For any use or reproduction of elements that are not owned by the author(s), permission may need to be directly from the respective right holders.