Virtual Kemet: an African-centred Egyptian gallery for prisons

Since 2003 Dr Sally-Ann Ashton, an Egyptologist and Senior Assistant Keeper in the Department of Antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge has worked with prison education departments as part of an outreach programme. In order to expand her work and to explore the potential for using museum collections as an integral part of prison education, she was granted leave of absence from her post from September 2007 to September 2009. The project focused on Dr Ashton’s fieldwork and research, and the Egyptian and Nubian collections at the Fitzwilliam Museum. These objects range from Palaeolithic to Modern and contain many examples of African cultural heritage. Particular focus has been given to presenting these two cultures as part of African, and so ‘Black’ achievement; a belief that is widespread amongst African-Caribbean communities in Britain. The specific aims of the project were:
1. To encourage ownership of cultural heritage, in particular for Black and Muslim prisoners, who have a direct link with ancient Egypt through their African and Islamic roots.
2. To create a point of contact with the outside world for long term prisoners and to present a means of sharing culture and knowledge.
3. To provide sustainable educational resources that will stimulate interest amongst people who have had a poor relationship with learning and schooling.
4. To evaluate the impact of teaching African cultural heritage in a prison environment.
5. To disseminate the findings and resources prisons, education departments and museums.

Principal investigator
Dr Sally-ann Ashton
Principal project staff
Dr Sally-Ann Ashton
Start date
Sunday, April 1, 2007
Completion date
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Source material
The Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge photographs with additional photography courtesy of Michael Jones and Sally-Ann Ashton, and photography and film footage courtesy of Andrew Crowe.