Egypt’s Scattered Heritage: The Distribution of Egyptian Archaeology to the World’s Museums

Egypt’s Scattered Heritage: The Distribution of Egyptian Archaeology to the World’s Museums
Alice Stevenson, Senior Lecturer in Museum Studies, Institute of Archaeology, University College London

Coach House, Green College, UBC
Wednesday, March 28, 5-6:30 pm

in the series
Living with the Dead: Cultural Heritage, Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Communities

Egypt’s cultural heritage is one of the most widely dispersed of any country following centuries of intense colonial and imperial interest in its history, monuments and antiquities. From 1883 onwards, British teams were prolific exporters of Egyptian antiquities, in large measure due to its position as an occupying power, as well as on account of the transnational sponsorship model adopted by missions to fund their work. As a result, it is estimated that some 350 institutions across 27 countries in 5 continents received Egyptian archaeological finds through British agencies. Previous research on these distributions has tended to focus on the artefacts themselves as sources of information about the ancient past, but these Egyptian artefacts represent far more than just themselves. This talk examines the motivations for collecting Egyptian antiquities from 1883 to the present day in a diversity of contexts.  Case studies will explore how Egyptian artefacts were activated for a whole range of political, cultural and religious purposes in recent times: from biblical and occult convictions in Victorian London to the suffragist campaigns of the progressive era, and from early 20th-century Japanese imperial ambitions to the decolonization efforts of 1950s Ghana. Tracing these histories leads to a critical reflection on the legacy of these practices today and includes questions around the ownership of the past and what it means for modern day Egyptians.


Alice Stevenson is a Senior Lecturer in Museum Studies at University College London's Institute of Archaeology. She has previously held posts as the Curator of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UCL (2012-2016) and as a Researcher in World Archaeology at the University of Oxford's Pitt Rivers Museum (2009-2012). She has written extensively on topics in prehistoric archaeology and Egyptology, as well as on the history of collections and museums. She is currently leading the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) project ‘Artefacts of Excavation’ which is examining the history, politics and legacy of exported archaeological finds from British excavations in Egypt to museums worldwide.