Five institutions join forces to support Cairo museum - Museums Association

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Five institutions join forces to support Cairo museum

The British Museum is one of five organisations taking part in EU-funded project looking at new approaches to interpretation, display and marketing. By Caroline Parry
Profile image for Rob Sharp
Rob Sharp
A European Union-funded project to transform Cairo’s Egyptian Museum has been launched with a range of partners, including the British Museum, London. The £2.7m initiative, which will run for three years, forms part of a plan to significantly upgrade the museum.

The five partners will work with the Egyptian ministry of antiquities to develop a strategic masterplan for the museum. The consortium also comprises the Louvre in Paris, Turin’s Museo Egizio, Berlin’s Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, and the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden.

The masterplan will include new displays, improved interpretation and a greater focus on the visitor experience. Advice will also be given on how to market the museum as part of Egypt’s cultural heritage and tourism.

Neal Spencer, the keeper of ancient Egypt and Sudan at the British Museum, says the project is an opportunity for the museum to build on 15 years of collaboration with the ministry. This has included research fieldwork, and a skills exchange through the British Museum’s International Curatorial Training Programme.

“The EU delegation in Egypt has a range of projects with the Egyptian government across education, healthcare, business and so on,” Spencer says. “There has been a desire to focus on culture in the past few years, and this is the outcome of that.”

Egypt’s minister of antiquities, Khala el-Enany, named the Egyptian Museum as a priority, with two major museum projects under way in the country. The Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) in Giza is due to open in late 2020, while Cairo’s National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, which launched in 2017, is opening further galleries.

The Egyptian Museum has lost some of its world-famous objects, such as the Tutankhamun collection, which has moved to GEM.

Good timing

“It is a timely moment to reassess the vision for that museum and reimagine the displays and storytelling,” says Spencer.

The Museo Egizio is leading the project, with the rest of the partners focusing on specific areas. The British Museum is providing help with the Graeco-Roman galleries, visitor interpretation, audience strategy, and marketing and communications.

Spencer adds that the project is likely to affect how the British Museum displays its Egypt collection.

While there have been previous projects during which staff from across the Egyptology departments have worked together, this project marks the first time that the five institutions have collaborated with Cairo.

“It’s exciting,” says Spencer. “Hearing the ideas and approaches that our Egyptian Museum colleagues have outlined, we are looking forward to starting. We expect to learn from each other.”

With the initial focus on the redisplay of the entrance galleries, Spencer says the challenges are similar to those involved in the renovation of any famous institution. These include maintaining access to the museum while the work is carried out, and not losing its historic feel as facilities are upgraded.

Creating a blueprint

It is hoped the project will create a blueprint for how international museums can support each other.
“This is a new chapter – a collaboration to help our Egyptian colleagues transform the iconic Egyptian Museum, to respond to their stated aims and vision for its new displays,” says Spencer. “The project will put in place ways of working and collaborating that can be used in the future and deployed in other museums.”

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