THE LID has finally been lifted and the seal broken on the multi-million pound transformation of Bolton’s Egyptian collection.

MARY NAYLOR took a look behind the scenes of the exhibit which opens to the public on Saturday.

A JOURNEY through life, death and rebirth has been created in Bolton Museum to show off just a small portion of the incredible collection of Egyptian artefacts the museum holds.

More than 2,000 objects are on display in the perfectly-formed gallery which will be unrecognisable to people who remember the old exhibitions in the museum.

Five distinct rooms have been curated above the library using a £3.8 million fund which came from the council, income from touring exhibits and sponsorship from Eddie Davies, who died earlier this month.

It includes a breathtaking replica tomb created using 3D laser scanning to produce a full-size recreation of the tomb of Pharoah Tuthmose III, who reigned between 1479 and 1425 BC. The collection also includes a piece of stonework from the original tomb.

The huge room is covered with the story of the Amduat ­— how the dead Pharoah will travel through the underworld to be reborn, showing various challenges Tuthmose would encounter along the way.

Ian Trumble, the collections access officer for Egyptology at Bolton Museum said: “There’s some really nice characters and you’ll see some of the challenges like fire-breathing snakes and snakes that protect him and gods that some together and fight a battle.”

Resting in a place of honour in the replica tomb is “The Unknown Man”. The collection’s mummy has never been identified but is believed to be a son of Rameses II or Rameses the Great.

Mr Trumble said: “He’s in a woman’s coffin and we’re not sure how he came to be in it.”

The mummy was donated to Bolton Museum in the 1920s, until when it had been decorating a lady’s drawing room.

Mr Trumble said: “Round about that time we started to get The Mummy films coming out which might have influenced her view of having a mummy stood in the house.”

A brightly-lit long gallery is filled with glass arches creating a unique way of displaying the collection.

Each of the glass arches shows off a different aspect of Ancient Egypt, creating a 360 degree viewing experience for hundreds of items relating to everyday life in Egypt: the people’s relationship to their animal-headed gods such as Anubis and Thoth, a look at neighbouring countries and the sorts of jobs and even beauty regimes Ancient Egyptians would indulge in.

Mr Trumble said: “The perception people have of Egypt is of a desert and 95 per cent is, but the other part where everyone lived was luscious.

“We wanted to show the landscape, its flora and fauna. It’s those animals which influenced their culture.”

Willing to admit to its mistakes, the gallery has on display Bromley Cross forger Shaun Greenhalgh’s Amarna Princess, which was sold to Bolton Museum in 2003 for £440,000. Mr Greenhalgh even faked the provenance well enough to fool the British Museum.

Mr Greenhalgh and his family were caught out in 2006. The sculpture has been returned to Bolton on loan from Scotland Yard.

Two rooms in the exhibition have been dedicated to exploring the relationship we have with Ancient Egypt, with its instantly-recognisable designs, mystique and varied myths.

One room explores Egyptians in popular culture featuring music by The Bangles (bet you can guess the song) and clips from TV including Mickey Mouse and Batman.

Another room is reminiscent of Queens Park where the collection was originally housed in the Chadwick Museum.

Portraits have been embroidered into the likenesses of Samuel Chadwick, Annie Barlow, and William and Thomas Midgley who helped bring the collection to Bolton.

Links to textiles and the industrial revolution can be seen throughout the exhibition, when much of the collection was acquired.

Mr Trumble said: “Our textile collection is one of the largest in the country. The Midgleys had an interest in textile production, in the history of textiles. They were looking at how textile production has changed over time. They were seeing [Egyptian] pieces at that time and thinking ‘How the heck did they do that?’

“There’s still a lot of study going on about Egyptian textiles, it’s still not fully understood.”

At the time the Midgley’s were curating the Bolton collection Samuel Crompton had only just invented the spinning mule, whereas the Ancient Egyptians had been producing fine pieces of cloth thousands of years before.