3 – An Insight into Museum Workings and Some Discoveries

After weeks of silence in regards to my letter to the Egyptian Museum Cairo (EMC) regarding my viewing items in storage, I (at the urging of my best friend) took another trip to the museum, prepared to knock on some doors until I got answers.

I went, and to my surprise, found a shrine I had been looking for all on my own, and snapped some nice pictures. There I realized that another figure (not just the name) had been erased, which lends support to the argument of a vindictive erasure. Figures, especially ones etched in stone, pass out of memory quickly, since they are not great likenesses of the person. To go to the trouble of erasing a figure out of stone monuments, not just names, speaks to a will to erase the memory of the person completely (what some refer to as a “second death”). This discovery was extremely helpful in drawing my conclusions about who erased all these names and why.

After an hour of searching, I finally worked up the courage to ask a group of security guards near a door that looked like it led to some back rooms about my email request. First I was passed off to a tour guide who had no idea what I was talking about (and now remembers me as an insane girl who doesn’t know the first thing about Ancient Egypt). However, after that spectacular failure, the security guard – who didn’t even really speak English – told me he would go to the back and find someone to help me! He came back with someone who had seen my letter and led me through back rooms and small underground tunnels (at one point I did consider that I might be being led to my death by imprisonment) to what I can only assume were the archives. There he passed me on to two women, who used a relatively dated Mac to search the catalogue for my list of items.

Both were incredibly helpful and enthusiastic about my project, and I felt right at home discussing my ideas with them. While I was not allowed to see the 3 items of mine that were in storage (postgraduates only, despite my letter from my advisor), and I couldn’t take any pictures (I sent in an official photo request that will take about 3 months), they did let me browse the catalogue and simply view whatever information they had on file.

I learned that the EMC catalogue is incredibly outdated (read: old handwritten ledger with blurry black and white photos clipped in, photocopied onto the computer), with the occasional digital black and white photo of an artifact. While 2 of the 3 storage pictures were too blurry to make anything out, one was quite legible, and I spent a few minutes deciphering the writing with Marwa, the woman doing the computer searches. She also helped me identify another artifact that was actually on display – I had missed it because it was unlabeled and significantly smaller than I expected (the official name is “Colossal Head,” and it is about the size of a watermelon). The museum had very clear pictures of it, which was useful considering the item on display was pushed against a wall, where I couldn’t see the back where the erasure actually is.

All in all, I would consider the visit a great success, both in terms of research and personal networking. I finally had seen all my items, and was able to start forming conclusions based in evidence, not just an amalgam of different theories. See the upcoming summary post for preliminary conclusions, and my presentation for the final thing (that one has pictures, too)!