Annie Pirie Quibell (right) and sister-in-law Kate at El Kab (Photo:  Griffith Institute, University of Oxford)
Annie Pirie Quibell (right) and sister-in-law Kate at El Kab (Photo: Griffith Institute, University of Oxford)

Exhibition will mark Scots Victorian adventurer

A pioneering Egyptologist to be celebrated at a new Scottish attraction.

Annie Pirie Quibell – artist, academic and adventurer – always had the makings of a trailblazer. She wrote a guidebook to Cairo Museum for soldiers stationed in the Egypt during the First World War, produced another covering the pyramids of Giza, and lived for a time in a mummy’s tomb…

Born in Aberdeen, she was one of the first women to enrol on a new Egyptian Archaeology course at University College London in 1892 and was later chosen as one of only two female students to join an excavation team at Saqqara in 1895.

Responsible for recording paintings and inscriptions, Annie helped reveal the hidden mysteries of Ancient Egypt.

Now Annie’s own history is to be documented at a new visitor attraction being developed by Aberdeen City Council.

She will be among more than 100 remarkable individuals whose global influence will be showcased in Provost Skene’s House, which is being renovated and refurbished.

Work has started on the £3.8 million City Centre Masterplan project, scheduled to be completed by autumn 2020.

Annie Pirie Quibell (right) and sister-in-law Kate at El Kab (Photo: Griffith Institute, University of Oxford)

The site will be made secure prior to the erection of scaffolding to allow work to be carried out on the roof, walls and windows. Border plants are being removed and will be stored at the council’s Hazlehead nursery before being returned to their original positions.

Council co-leader Councillor Jenny Laing said: ‘Work is under way to conserve one of Aberdeen’s best-loved buildings ahead of giving it a new and exciting role in city life.

‘Provost Skene’s House will become a treasure trove for stories like Annie Quibell’s, some stretching back centuries, others celebrating our continuing influence on the wider world.

‘Our cultural, heritage and tourism offering continues to grow, with the launch of P&J Live nearly upon us, Aberdeen Art Gallery re-opening in autumn, and Union Terrace Gardens about to undergo its own transformation.’

Annie (1862-1927) will feature in the International Trailblazers section.

The daughter of an Aberdeen academic, Annie had trained as an artist – exhibiting at the Scottish Royal Academy – before moving to London to pursue her interest in archaeology.

In Egypt she met James Edward Quibell, of the Egyptian Antiquities Service, while they reportedly both battled food poisoning during a dig.

Annie Pirie Quibell with husband Edward in 1902 (Photo: Harvard University Archives)

The couple married in Aberdeen in 1900 and spent their lives working together, the pair at one point adopting an Egyptian tomb as their home.

In A Wayfarer in Egypt, published in 1925, Annie wrote: ‘Of all the different dwelling places, give me, for choice, if not too long a time, a good tomb… The shafts at the bottom of which the real burial is, sometimes still gape in the floor and one has to be careful not to fall in, but this is almost the only drawback.’

The Council’s in-house building team will lead work on Provost Skene’s House. Studioarc helped develop the concept and are designing bespoke audio-visual displays as well sourcing artefacts and memorabilia.

Photographs of Annie in Egypt were acquired from the Griffith Institute at Oxford University and Harvard University Archives.

Provost Skene’s House – which dates from 1545 – was named after one of Aberdeen’s most famous residents, Sir George Skene, a merchant who pioneered trade with the Baltic nations, and who will be celebrated at the new Flourmill Lane attraction.

The line-up will range from Professor John Mallard, who helped develop the MRI body scanner, to music superstar Emeli Sandé to rower Katherine Grainger, Britain’s most decorated female Olympian.