Buying Power: Archaeologists as Dealers in Egypt and Sudan
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Exhibitions and displays of Egyptian objects in museums across the world continue to inspire awe and fascination for millions of visitors. As museums tell the stories of the ancient world, they also tell their own collecting stories of how the objects came to be part of their collections. These narratives have focused on the heroic, scientific achievements of individuals. This approach has meant that another part of history has been ignored, hidden, or simply downplayed as the very same archaeological heroes were often involved enthusiastically in buying and selling antiquities. This lecture will begin by exploring the activities of several excavator-collectors who impacted the formation of Scotland's national collection: curator Edwin Ward, archaeologists/academics John Garstang and William Matthew Flinders Petrie, and the Canadian collector-for-hire Charles Trick Currelly. It will share the stories of their purchases and sales in full, linking their work in Egypt to Scotland, Europe, and Canada. The lecture will also start to answer some key questions for the history of Egyptology and museums: How did these individuals engage with the antiquities market? How did they view their transactions ethically? And importantly, how does this hidden collecting history impact what we see in museum displays today?