The following itinerary lists a range of libraries, museums, galleries, churches etc which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but some require special permission, which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, and lunches and dinners as indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch, and D=dinner.
London - 4 nights
Day 1: Saturday 11 September, Arrive London
- Welcome Meeting
- Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology: Specialised tour with Jan Picton
- Welcome Dinner
Participants will be required to make their own way to their accommodation in London (check-in time is 3.00pm). After checking in, there will be a short Welcome Meeting.
This afternoon, we transfer to The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology at University College London (UCL). Egyptologist Jan Picton, a specialist in craft traditions of the Bronze Age, will lead us on a private tour of one of the greatest collections of Egyptian and Sudanese archaeology gathered by Flinders Petrie, UCL’s first professor of Egyptology and the man largely responsible for enabling collections of Egyptian material to be established across the globe, from Australia to the United States.
We walk back to the hotel. This evening we enjoy a welcome dinner at a local restaurant. (Overnight London) D
Day 2: Sunday 12 September, London
- Introductory Talk by Dr Paul Collins
- The Palestine Exploration Fund: Behind-the-Scenes
- National Maritime Museum: Pacific Encounters Gallery & Cutty Sark
After the first of Paul’s introductory talks at our hotel, we take the ferry along the Thames to Greenwich.
On arrival at Greenwich we shall have an exclusive ‘behind the scenes’ visit to The Palestine Exploration Fund. It was created under the patronage of Queen Victoria in 1865 to promote research into the archaeology and history, manners, customs and culture, topography, geology and natural sciences of biblical Palestine and the Levant. Publications describing important early projects that were sponsored by the Fund include Excavations in Jerusalem by Sir Charles Warren and Henry Birtles; The Survey of Western Palestine by Claude Conder and Horatio Kitchener (among others); Excavations at Tell el-Hesi directed by Sir William Flinders Petrie and Frederick Bliss, and The Wilderness of Zin Archaeological Survey conducted by Sir Leonard Woolley and T.E. Lawrence.
We then walk back through Maritime Greenwich, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where lunchtime is at leisure. You may wish to climb to the top of the hill in Greenwich Park where from grounds in front of the Royal Observatory you can enjoy one of the best views of the Royal Naval College and London’s skyline. A visit to Greenwich wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the National Maritime Museum. Many of the collections we will be exploring on the tour were only made possible through Britain’s dominance at sea and our curator-led tour of the Pacific Encounters Gallery will include a study of Britain’s seafaring history, with a focus on the ‘discovery’ of Australia. We also view the Cutty Sark, one of the fastest clipper ships that carried wool from Australia.
We return to Holborn by public transport. The evening is at leisure. (Overnight London)B
Day 3: Monday 13 September, London
- The British Museum: Behind-the-Scenes visit to the library of Ashurbanipal and cuneiform collections with Curator Dr John Taylor
- The British Museum: Guided tour by archaeologist of Ancient Egypt, Assyria and Mesopotamia, and Islamic collections
- The Wallace Collection: Guided Tour
This morning we visit The British Museum and commence with a ‘behind-the-scenes’ visit to the Middle East Department with its extraordinary collection of 130 thousand cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia in the historic Arched Room; this room was once part of the British Library but now holds the world’s oldest library, that of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal. The visit will be led by Dr Jon Taylor, Curator of the cuneiform collections and an expert on the tablets from Nineveh.
We continue with a tour of the Assyrian and Egyptian galleries, including the famous Rosetta Stone. This stele is inscribed with a royal decree in three scripts: hieroglyphs, demotic and Greek; its translation in 1822 unlocked the secrets of hieroglyphs and with them ancient Egyptian civilisation. Other highlights will include the great wall sculptures from Nimrud and Nineveh (including the lion hunts of Ashurbanipal) and a visit to the treasures from the Royal Graves of Ur.
After some time at leisure to further explore the museum, we transfer to the Wallace Collection, a remarkable assembly of art gathered in the 18th and 19th centuries by the first four Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, the son of the 4th Marquess. It was bequeathed to the British nation by Sir Richard’s widow, Lady Wallace, in 1897. Treasures include works by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Rembrandt and Frans Hals. We shall take a private tour of its outstanding collection of Islamic treasures, including princely arms and armour. (Overnight London) B
Day 4: Tuesday 14 September, London
- Victoria and Albert Museum: Behind-the-Scenes (to be confirmed)
- V&A: Curator-led tour tour of the Islamic collections & Ancient Iran
- Leighton House Museum: Curator-led tour incl. the Arab Hall & Painting Studio
This morning we transfer to the Victoria & Albert Museum which houses one of the most extensive and renowned collections of Islamic art in the world. Some 400 objects of exquisite beauty are on display, including ceramics, textiles, carpets, metalwork, glass and woodwork. There will be a private tour of these galleries and we hope to include a ‘behind the scenes’ visit.
We have lunchtime at leisure to further explore the V&A Museum.
In the mid-afternoon we transfer to nearby Leighton House Museum. Senior Curator Daniel Robins will lead us on a private tour of this museum which has been undergoing major restoration since 2008 and is due to reopen in spring 2021. The museum is the former purpose-built studio-house of Frederic, Lord Leighton, eminent Victorian artist and President of the Royal Academy from 1878 to 1895. Referred to as a ‘private palace of art’, it features an extraordinary Arab Hall with a gold dome, intricate mosaics and walls lined with beautiful Islamic tiles. Upstairs we view Leighton’s vast painting studio where prominent figures including Queen Victoria were entertained. (Overnight London) B
Oxford - 2 nights
Day 5: Wednesday 15 September, London – Oxford
- The Griffith Institute, University of Oxford: Behind-the-Scenes visit to the Howard Carter Archive of Tutankhamun excavation
- Pitt Rivers Museum: Talk and Curator-led tour Middle Eastern ethnographic collection
- Dinner at Restaurant No 1. Ship Street
This morning we check-out of our Apart hotel in London and drive by private coach to Oxford where we shall stay for the next two nights.
Oxford University’s Griffith Institute has been at the ‘heart’ of Britain’s Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies for over eighty years. Among its many treasures is the pocket diary of Howard Carter in which, on November 5th 1922, he wrote: ‘Discovered tomb under tomb of Ramsses VI investigated same & found seals intact.’ The subsequent excavation of the tomb of Tutankhamun captured the public imagination. The complete records of the ten-year excavation were deposited in the Griffith Institute Archive shortly after Carter’s death by his niece Miss Phyllis Walker. We are privileged to take a ‘behind-the-scenes’ visit to the Howard Carter Archive which includes the iconic photographs that chart the discovery and recording of perhaps the most famous archaeological discovery ever.
This afternoon we visit the Pitt Rivers Museum. Accessed through the University Museum of Natural History and in a unique setting – transporting you back to an earlier age of museum displays – is a vast collection of archaeological and ethnographic objects from all parts of the world. The origins of the museum lie with a collection of 26,000 objects gifted to the University by General Augustus Pitt Rivers, a leading Victorian ethnologist and archaeologist. Like the other university museums, the Pitt Rivers museum was intended for teaching and research and its curators are still university lecturers. A senior curator will introduce the current work of the museum followed by a private tour of its many extraordinary and surprising highlights.
This evening, we enjoy dinner together at Restaurant No 1. Ship Street. (Overnight Oxford) BD
Day 6: Thursday 16 September, Oxford
- Introductory Talk by Dr Paul Collins
- Jesus College Oxford: Behind-the-Scenes visit to the library incl. T.E. Lawrence’s undergraduate thesis
- Ashmolean Museum: Behind-the-Scenes visit & Object handling session from the Ancient Near East and Egyptian collection
- Ashmolean Museum: Behind-the-Scenes visit to the Print Room
After an introductory talk by Paul, we walk to Jesus College. We take a ‘behind-the-scenes’ visit to the seventeenth century Fellow’s Library which features the undergraduate thesis of T.E. Lawrence based on his exploration of the Crusader castles of the Middle East; we will also see a painting of Lawrence in Arab dress which hangs in the College dining hall.
After an early lunch, we spend the entire afternoon at the Ashmolean Museum, the University of Oxford’s museum of art and archaeology, founded in 1683 (making it the oldest public museum in the world). In a unique ‘behind the scenes’ visit, Liam McNamara, Curator for Ancient Egypt and Sudan, will show selected objects from its world-famous Egyptian collection. Then Paul, will take us on a ‘behind the scenes’ handling session with objects from the Ancient Near East, including some of the world’s earliest writing.
The third ‘behind-the-scenes’ visit this afternoon is to the Ashmolean’s Print Room which holds one of the most important collections of drawings, watercolours and prints by a wide range of artists from the 15th century to the present day; this includes works by Michelangelo, Rubens, John Ruskin and Edgar Degas. We hope to view prints by Raphael and Rembrandt among others. (Overnight Oxford) B
Paris - 3 nights
Day 7: Friday 17 September, Oxford – Woburn Abbey – Paris
- Woburn Abbey and Gardens: Guided tour of the Art Collection & free time to explore the gardens
- Travel from London to Paris
This morning we drive to Woburn Abbey, the family home of the Duke and Duchess of Bedford. Woburn Abbey houses an outstanding collection of art works, including the largest private collection of Canaletto’s Venetian views on public view, the Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I and works by artists such as Gainsborough, Rembrandt, Reynolds, and Van Dyck. The Woburn Abbey is currently undergoing major refurbishment works and is due to open in Easter 2021.
After the guided tour, we visit at leisure the historic Gardens of Woburn Abbey designed in 1805 by Humphry Repton, the first person to use the title ‘Landscape Gardener’. This title acknowledged the way he combined his interest in landscape painting with his skill in practical gardening.
After lunch at Woburn Abbey, we travel to Paris and check-in at the Apart’hotel Citadines Saint-Germain-des-Prés. (Overnight Paris) BL
Day 8: Saturday 18 September, Paris
- Musée du Louvre: Guided tour with Dr Ariane Thomas, Curator for Mesopotamia
- Institut du Monde Arabe: Guided Tour of the Islamic Art Collection
Today we visit the Musée du Louvre, which houses one of the world’s greatest art collections. It began life as a fortress, but over the centuries, kings and emperors added new buildings. One of the most controversial additions was the glass pyramid, designed by I.M. Pei, which opened in 1989. The Louvre’s art collections have been a vehicle through which governments established and reinforced Paris’s status as the world’s art centre in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Dr Ariane Thomas, Curator for Mesopotamia, takes us on private tour of her department of Ancient Near Eastern antiquities. We explore objects from ancient civilisations of Sumer, Akkad, Babylonia, and Assyria, including the famous law code of Hammurabi. Afterwards, group members will have the opportunity to further explore the museum’s vast collections and the building itself.
This afternoon, we transfer by metro to the Latin Quarter. We take a guided tour of the Institut du Monde Arabe. It was designed to be a museum of Arab-Muslim art and civilisation. The building, enclosed in a mantle of glass and aluminium and covered by a sheath of translucent alabaster, was conceived by the architect Jean Nouvel and the Architecture Studio.
We take a guided tour of The Islamic Art collection and view works from countries ranging from Spain to India, including cut and over-painted glass, lustre ware, chased bronze, wood and ivory sculpture, coins, jewellery, geometric and floral carpets, manuscripts, miniatures and drawings, calligraphic sheets and printed books. Palace and mosque architecture and scientific achievements in the fields of medicine, astronomy and mathematics are also featured. The Institut also has a fine collection of astrolabes.
We walk back to our hotel along the river Seine. The rest of the day and evening will be at leisure. (Overnight Paris) B
Day 9: Sunday 19 September, Paris
- Final Summary by Dr Paul Collins
- Musée du Quai Branly: Guided tour
- Farewell Lunch at Restaurant Les Ombres
After a final lecture by Paul at the hotel, we transfer to the Musée du Quai Branly, designed by France’s most famous contemporary architect, Jean Nouvel. Inaugurated in 2006, it is dedicated to Indigenous art from Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Americas, housing 370,000 objects (including Australian Indigenous paintings specially commissioned by Jean Nouvel as permanent installations). The spectacular rooftop features a painting from contemporary Aboriginal artist Lena Nyadbi that can be seen from the Eiffel Tower.
After a general introduction, the visit will focus on collections from North Africa and the Near East. We hope to investigate the interesting contrast between the Pitt Rivers which is leading the way in questions of decolonisation, and the policy of the Musée Quai Branly, which punctuates its displays with Orientalist paintings.
At the end of the tour, we shall enjoy our farewell lunch at the restaurant Les Ombres, situated on the Musée du quai Branly’s terrace. The restaurant’s decor, furniture and crockery are signed Jean Nouvel. A magical place, this restaurant offers an unforgettable view of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower. (Overnight Paris) BL
Day 10: Monday 20 September, Paris – tour ends
The tour ends today in Paris. Those returning to Australia will need to make their own way to Paris CDG airport (contact ASA for information on private transfers). Participants wishing to extend their stay in Paris are advised to contact ASA for information about extending their stay at the Apart’hotel Citadines Saint-Germain-des-Prés. B