“To show more than collections of objects ”"To show more than collections of objects "
Coinciding with the exhibition “Egypt’s sunken treasures” starting 9 December at the Grand Palais in Paris, UNESCO presents the project for the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC), scheduled to open in late 2009, which it is supporting with technical expertise.
Interview with Ayman Abdel Moneim, director of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, conducted by Angès Bardon, Bureau of Public Information, UNESCO.
The first stone of the NMEC was laid in 2002. At what stage is the construction now?
The buildings are already standing. The creation of the museum is divided into three phases. The first was the construction of the building. Right now, 75% of this phase is completed. At the end of September 2007, we’ll finish the museum’s technical departments, meaning the laboratories, conservation workshops, storage facilities, administrative offices and training center. We plan to conclude the third phase and the design of the exhibition space over the course of 2009. The public will then have access to the museum in late 2009.
What’s special about the NMEC, compared to other existing museums in Egypt?
The big difference is that the museum wasn’t planned as simply a showcase for collections of objects. We had the concept of an institution that represented all of Egyptian civilization, from prehistory to modern times, with the Pharaonic and Islamic eras along the way. Visitors will be able to contemplate artifacts from a variety of national collections, such as the Greco-Roman Museum of Alexandria, the Cairo or Luxor museums. Besides the royal mummies from the Valley of the Kings, which is one highlight of the visit, you’ll be able to see other treasures like an exceptional collection of 5000 gold objects as well as masterpieces from the Islamic and Coptic periods. Emphasis on intangible cultural heritage defines another of the museum’s distinguishing characteristics. At a time when a certain number of our traditions are being lost, the museum becomes a place where this living heritage can be recorded. This is connected to another goal of the NMEC, which is to attract not only international visitors but also Egyptians, who today are not particularly assiduous museum-goers. That the museum isn’t located downtown, as originally planned, but at El Fustat, on Ain Al Seera Lake, on the road to the Pyramids, makes it much more accessible than central Cairo, which is always choked with traffic.
What role did UNESCO play in the project’s development?
The Egyptian government is providing close to US$ 250 million in funding. UNESCO, meanwhile, is bringing technical expertise in such fields as architecture, museology, restoration, management and education. This is the result of collaboration that began with the International Campaign for the Establishment of the Nubia Museum in Aswan and the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo. The cooperation will be ongoing until the museum opens and becomes fully operational.
Foto: (c) UNESCO/Niamh Burke