The Ancient Egypt and Nubia galleries at the Ashmolean Museum have come to life.

After an astonishingly short turnaround, only a year to the month from planning permission to completion for a £5m renovation, the museum’s most popular visitor attraction is back in action.

And in what style! The six galleries are simply spectacular. Offering a coherent circular route through 5,000 years of human occupation of the Nile valley, they are spacious, well lit, have clear graphics and texts, and state-of-the-art display units that not only beautifully show off the precious objects inside them but also provide safe environmental conditions.

Furthermore, free audio- visual guides help tell the stories behind the artefacts and themed galleries.

There is something for everyone: 2,000 objects, from the ritual to the everyday, from every schoolchild’s idea of Egypt to the esoteric.

That means mummies and coffins, of course, twice as many as before, bright and fresh from extensive work in the Ashmolean’s conservation studios.

There’s a push-button display of gods and goddesses, plus models of birds, fish, hippos and crocs and so on, necklaces, pots, amulets, shabti figures . . . fabulous things, many not seen before, but notwithstanding, the sort of things you might expect.

But then, at the tail end of these displays of Egyptian antiquity, you come across an ultra-modern piece of sculpture. Oxford artist Angela Palmer’s recreation in glass of a child mummy — displayed alongside the mummy that inspired it — is an absolute scene-stealer.

Equal parts ghost and substance, the tiny collapsed frame of the little boy invoked on multiple panels of glass seems as you move around it to fade away and reform before your very eyes.

To see them lying there together is incredibly moving: the intricately bound mummy of a child who died almost 2,000 years ago when the Romans ruled Egypt, and a work of contemporary art that uniquely and respectfully commemorates him.

Not even the best audio visual screen could do a better job of making a mummy come ‘alive’. The ancient Egyptians devoted a lot of time and effort making sure the dead lived on.

The sculpture, a 3D representation of the boy’s ‘internal architecture’ was developed from a series of CT-scans of the mummy taken at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, in 2006.

There was no disturbance to either mummy or wrappings. This collaboration between the Ashmolean, radiologists and the artist revealed that the body is of a boy aged about two who probably died of pneumonia, who had a hip dysplasia and a rare dental condition.

Angela’s four-year journey to discover the mummy’s story drew her ‘eerily close’ to the child, she said. Feeling ‘compelled' to visit his homeland and burial site in the Faiyum, south of Cairo, she made a film of her visit. This and related artworks are in a temporary exhibition, Unwrapped: The Story of a Child Mummy in the Cast Gallery until March 4, 2012.

Angela Palmer’s Ghost Forest installation is presently outside the Museum of Natural History, Oxford, acting as a powerful reminder of deforestation.