The new Jafar Gallery of the Eton Museum of Antiquities with a portrait of Major Myers, whose Ancient Egyptian artefacts formed the core of the collection.

The three museums of Eton College

This year, the Eton Museum of Antiquities is opening to the public for the first time. Housed in the new, purpose-built Jafar Gallery, designed by leading neo-classical architect John Simpson, it is the seventh home for the College's antiquities in just over a century. Displayed in the gallery are rare treasures, ranging from Ancient Egyptian artefacts, including a painted sarcophagus, to archaeological finds dredged from the River Thames.

The core of the museum's collection came from a generous bequest made by Old Etonian Major William Joseph Myers who left his remarkable collection of Egyptian antiquities to the Head Master of Eton College at the end of the 19th century.

Cartonnage mummy mask with its hypnotic gilded face, Ptolemaic Period, circa 304–30 BC.

It has been added to over the years thanks to generous gifts from many donors including the Duke of Newcastle and Lord Carnarvon. It has also received fascinating finds from excavations carried out in 1936 by the eminent archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley at Al-Mina, or Tyre, an ancient trading-post on the Mediterranean coast of northern Syria, and two AD 2nd–4th-century Gandharan statues from the widow of Lord Roberts of Kandahar.

The collection covers a vast geographical area and chronological frame stretching from Australia to Afghanistan and Peru to Sumeria, from prehistory to the 20th century. On display are Bronze Age tools and weapons dredged from the Tiber and the Thames, including a bronze axehead from 1000–800 BC, and potsherds from as far away as Knossos on Crete and as near as the foundations of an Eton boarding house. There is also an exceptional collection of Palaeolithic flint hand-axes, from well before the emergence of homo sapiens.

Fayum mummy portrait of a bearded young man in Roman attire, a realistic encaustic image painted on a limewood panel, circa AD 165.

Near the Museum of Antiquities is the Eton College Natural History Museum, which holds a collection of over 16,000 specimens, with unique exhibits including a rare surviving page from Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species and material relating to the famous botanist and Old Etonian Sir Joseph Banks, who sailed on the HMS Endeavour with Captain Cook.

Across the road is the third museum, the Museum of Eton Life, which brings alive the history and traditions of the school from 1440 to to the present day.

β€’ The three Eton College museums are all open to the public from 2.30pm to 5pm on Sundays only (except Easter Sunday). Admission is free and no booking is necessary. The Museum of Antiquities and the Natural History Museum are on South Meadow Lane, Eton; the Museum of Eton Life is accessed in Brewhouse Yard, via Baldwin's Shore, off Eton High Street. (For further information visit or email
Lindsay Fulcher