Colonial Visions

Egyptian Antiquities and Contested Histories in the Cairo Museum

in Museum Worlds

During the Egyptian revolution in January 2011, the antiquities museum in Tahrir Square became the focus of press attention amid claims of looting and theft, leading Western organizations and media outlets to call for the protection of Egypt’s ‘global cultural heritage’. What passed without remark, however, was the colonial history of the Cairo museum and its collections, which has shaped their postcolonial trajectory. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Cairo museum was a pivotal site for demonstrating control of Egypt on the world stage through its antiquities. More than a century later, these colonial visions of ancient Egypt, and its place in museums, continue to exert their legacy, not only in the challenges faced by the Egyptian Antiquities Museum at a crucial stage of redevelopment, but also in terms of museological practice in the West.

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