From Egypt to Pittsburgh
The museum would like to formally acknowledge that all of the objects displayed in the Walton Hall of Ancient Egypt were made by the ancient Egyptian people.
The museum has collected roughly 5,000 ancient Egyptian objects through various means including archaeological organizations and private collectors. These organizations and individuals benefited directly from the colonial world system that led to the creation of the field of Egyptology, in the late 1700s.
Our collection derives from three main sources. We received 1,132 objects from the Egypt Exploration Society (EES), a British organization founded in 1882 dedicated to the systematic excavation of Egyptian archaeological sites. Former museum director Dr. William J. Holland founded a local chapter of the EES; the financial contributions of that group gave the museum access to objects from EES excavations in Egypt.
We also made two large purchases from private collectors. The first included some 2,726 objects from the collection of Roman Orbeliani (also known as Robert de Rustafjaell), and the second, roughly 500 Post-Pharaonic textiles from the Münchener Gobelin Manufaktur, which had originally been in the collection of F.R. Martin. We also purchased additional objects and received gifts from various patrons and donors.
Colonialism, Orientalism, and Egyptology
Modern Egyptology, or the study of the language, history, and culture of ancient Egypt, is a field that was established by and for the benefit of the Western world. Our collection, like that of other museums around the world, owes its origins in large part to this system of power and to the development of the colonial practice of Orientalism.
Orientalism includes the representation of the peoples who inhabit locations in Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East, in a stereotyped and patronizing way. These depictions, both in art and in writing, embody colonialist attitudes of white supremacy and portray false historical narratives. These narratives were designed to exotify these diverse cultural groups and depict them as uncivilized in comparison to the western world. They often combine elements of various cultural groups to create a fictional story of exotic wonders and far off adventure.
While this statement serves merely as an acknowledgement of these facts, we are actively examining how to better address these issues and work towards a more inclusive and honest interpretation of this gallery in its upcoming renovation.
The museum cares for over 5,000 objects from ancient Egypt, much of which has never been displayed. But how did the material get here? A new exhibit case, “From Egypt to Pittsburgh,” is a rotating object display that brings an object (or small group of objects) out of museum storage and traces its history from ancient Egypt to the museum.
Meet our Anthropologist and Archaeologist
Learn about the Anthropology and Archaeology Collection at the Museum
The anthropology collection, the Section of Anthropology and Archaeology, contains major research collections of over 100,000 ethnological and historical specimens and over 1.5 million archaeological artifacts.
Blogs about Anthropology
- by Amy L. Covell-Murthy Indigenous Peoples’ Day is observed in the City of Pittsburgh concurrently with Columbus Day, and I would like …
- by Amy L. Covell-Murthy It was my pleasure to organize a field trip for Anthropology and Anthropocene staff, students, and friends to …
- by Phillip Mendenhall On archaeological excavations we typically remove overlying vegetation as part of the process of looking for evidence of the …
- by Amy L. Covell-Murthy Indigenous Peoples’ Day is observed in the City of Pittsburgh alongside Columbus Day and I would like to …