The development of archaeological and historical museums in Egypt during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: Imperialism, nationalism, UNESCO patronage and Egyptian museology today



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



With the growth of awareness about cultural heritage preservation, museums that exhibit, preserve, and study the material culture of ancient people are increasingly important. The English term museum, borrowed from the French muséum, refers back to the Hellenistic Mouseion of Alexandria, a temple, library, and research institute built in honor of the Muses in the third century BC. The Museum of Alexandria is considered a conceptual foundation for the creation of the modern museum. Egypt with its wealth of ancient artifacts has a long tradition of cultural preservation from the Ptolemies until the present, one complicated in recent centuries by the attempts of European powers to preserve and to profit from Egypt’s cultural heritage. This dissertation examines the modern development of archaeological and historical museums in Egypt in a broad contextual setting that includes the roles of imperialism and nationalism as well as the impact of international organizations such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It studies the development of the first Egyptian Museum that was built during the Age of Imperialism. It introduces the Greco-Roman and Coptic Museum to show the main mission of European scholars. It investigates whether native Egyptians have played significant roles in the development of their museums. It analyzes the challenges faced by Egyptian museums today in an independent Egypt. The conclusion suggests possible ways forward in Egyptian museology.