Ever since Napoleon’s late eighteenth-century conquest of Egypt, Western collectors, both institutional and private, have looked upon its ancient material culture with admiration and desire. Acquisitions were robust throughout the brief French occupation and subsequent British occupation of Egypt nearly a century later. This project is concerned with Western acquisitions of Egyptian art and architecture, large-scale in both quantity and size, that were collected by many museums, and the way in which they were employed to facilitate a narrative of ancient Egypt in relation to the West. In particular, this study will address the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition of its Egyptian collections, specifically the gallery devoted to the grand Temple of Dendur. Through analysis of this exhibition and its display I will show how this narrative is developed and communicated within the museum’s galleries. Central to my interest is furthering an understanding of how museums participate in shaping popular perceptions of ourselves in relation to the world around us. With these exhibitions, the West co-opted ancient Egypt in its own narrative of Western Civilization, while simultaneously proclaiming themselves as inheritors of this now-fallen civilization. Institutions like the Metropolitan Museum implicitly assert an impression of dominance of modern Western culture, in an attempt to rewrite history and forever alter the future.
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Berkowitz, Aaron, "Western Adoption of Ancient Egyptian Art and the Narratives it Perpetuates" (2021). Research Days Posters 2021. 1.