Two centuries of archaeological discoveries in the land of the Pharaohs
Brussels was once considered to be the world capital of Egyptology. The fascinating exhibition in the Art and History Museum in Park Cinquantenaire is divided into eight chronological sections.
Starting with just ten objects, the collection began to flourish in the nineteenth century when diplomats and industrialists became interested in Egypt. Leopold II, who made two state visits, added greatly to the collections, as did other important private collectors like Gustave Hagemans and Emile de Meester de Ravenstein. You also had figures like Baron Empain who founded the Heliopolis Oasis Company, which acquired land outside Cairo to build a new city, and who was also an enthusiastic Egyptologist.Commerce and curiosity – along with a massive influx of objects in 1891 when a huge trove was discovered by the French ‘Egyptian Antiquities Service’ in Deir el-Bahari – led to an important international exhibition in 1897 in Cinquantenaire that was only accessible to wealthy tourists.
Then in 1900, at the tender age of 23, the driven, obstinate and shrewd figure of Jean Capart transformed the collection. He secured financial support to collect large consignments from the English archaeologists of the Egypt Exploration Fund. In one room of the exhibition we can see the original boxes used to transport the artifacts. The collection now contains objects from all of the most prestigious sites in Egypt.
Today, Belgium isn’t in the business of acquiring new pieces, not least because Egypt now insists on safeguarding its archaeological heritage. However, the curators have more than enough to work on as the collection has still not been fully studied and is a work in progress.
Expedition Egypt is also punctuated by artistic reflections by Sara Sallam, born in Cairo (1991). Sallam draws on childhood memories and proposes a new, poetic approach to the heritage of ancient Egypt.
The exhibition is fascinating for the objects it contains and takes the visitor into a world of adventure and discovery.
There are family trails, for aspiring Egyptologists, included in the exhibition ticket, and there are also Sunday talks organized by the Fondation Egyptologique Reine Elisabeth.
Until 31 October 2023