From 31 March to 1 October 2023, the Art & History Museum presents the exhibition Expedition Egypt. This exhibition narrates the story of two centuries of fascinating archaeological discoveries in the Land of the Pharaohs and the development of the Egyptian collection of the museum.
The exhibition brings together more than two hundred objects from its eminent Egyptian collection. Highlights include the sumptuously decorated coffins from the priestly hideaway of Deir el-Bahari, and the beautifully illustrated Book of the Dead of the dignitary Neferrenpet. Objects like funerary stelae, canopic vases for the entrails of the deceased, and shabti figurines meant to accompany the dead in the afterlife, will introduce the visitors to the Egyptian world of the gods and eternal life. Another highlight of the exhibition is a monumental statue of the goddess Sekhmet from the Royal Palace, which was transferred to the Art & History Museum for this exhibition. The exhibition will also be richly provided with unique historical photographic material portraying the Egypt of the past.
The exhibition is divided into eight chronological sections that guide visitors through two centuries of history. The story begins in the nineteenth century, when Belgian diplomatic and industrial circles became increasingly interested in Egypt, which at the time was central to international politics and global economic expansion. The first Egyptian artefacts in the collection were mainly private donations or diplomatic gifts. This was followed by other important additions to the collection, such as the artefacts brought back from Egypt by Leopold, Duke of Brabant, the future Leopold II, and the exceptional group of coffins from the priestly hideaway of Deir el-Bahari, which are on display again for the first time since their restoration.
In the first decades of the twentieth century, the collection grew by several thousand artefacts thanks to the tremendous energy of conservator Jean Capart (1877–1947), the founder of Belgian Egyptology. Through the many initiatives he took, Capart made Brussels the world capital of Egyptology at that time. After visiting the inviolate tomb of Tutankhamen in the company of the former Belgian Queen Elisabeth, he established in 1923 the Fondation égyptologique Reine Elisabeth, a scientific institute of international renown, which celebrates its centenary this year.
Today, the Art & History Museum houses a remarkably rich Egyptian collection that is among of the most important in Europe. This collection is the subject of a great deal of multidisciplinary research as well as of an active restoration policy, which seeks to bring back to life many treasures of this exceptional heritage.
The exhibitions is enlivened by the artistic interventions of Sara Sallam (b. 1991 in Cairo). The artist explores contemporary Egyptian cultural identity and questions the history and meaning of Egyptology. Imbued with poetry and influenced by her childhood memories, Sara Sallam’s work casts a fresh gaze on the heritage of ancient Egypt.
The exhibition Expedition Egypt is one of the outcomes of the research project Pyramids & Progress: Belgian Expansionism and the Making of Egyptology 1830–1952 (EOS, FWO–FNRS). The aim of this project was to study the development of Belgian Egyptology, in the context of Belgium’s economic and diplomatic development. The historical photographic material in the exhibition comes from the scientific project Sura: Unlocking the Photographic Archives of the Pioneering Years of Egyptology at the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels (Belspo).
A richly illustrated catalogue, published by Ludion, accompanies the exhibition, describing the story of Belgian Egyptology, as well as all the individual artefacts on display.
The exhibition is under the Patronage of Her Majesty the Queen of the Belgians
Art & History Museum
Parc du Cinquantenaire 10