The lure of ancient Egypt is a way to revitalise faded industrial towns

With local authority budgets being slashed, how can regional arts institutions survive? Investing in mummies is one solution

‘Marianne Brocklehurst built the West Park Museum in her home town of Macclesfield to house the mummy cases and artefacts she brought back.’ Photograph: Paul Tucker

Museums teach us to dream. Since the Victorian age it’s been Egyptian mummies – matched only by dinosaurs – that have captivated children. Being taken to see the mummies is a rite of passage, and one accessible across the country, not just to those in London who have the British Museum on their doorstep. But local authority culture budgets are being slashed, so how can regional arts institutions survive? What should they do about the pressure to return looted objects? And how do they show their relevance to modern audiences?

I have been exploring the history of three northern Egyptian museums, which have four remarkable Victorian women at the heart of their story. For those looking for entries for one of those currently popular anthologies of plucky rebel ladies from history, they all fit the bill.

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