Sunday, 10 July 2011

Egyptian Museum Inventory to Begin Again

This is surprising news, we were told after the looting on 28th January that the creation of a full inventory of the contents of the galleries of Cairo's Egyptian Museum was underway, and the time it would take to do this was the reason that they could not get a list of missing objects out. When the list came out it had duplicate inventory numbers indicating that there have been problems with the collection management going back some years. So in the coming up to six months following the events of 28th January, which gave a new incentive, I think we'd all assumed that they had been busily sorting this problem out. Indeed, when I visited the newly-opened Museum at the end of February a cluster of Museum staff could be seen with some benches drawn up to the glass of a case in one of the galleries (one that had not been broken into) with a card index and a laptop - though it seemed to me they were more interested in the contents of their cellphones than the case, and they were by the same case when I went there the next day. Now an announcement has appeared in Al-Masry Al-Youm:
The Higher Council of Universities formed a committee to create an inventory for the collection inside the Egyptian Museum, according to the decision of the public prosecution. The committee will start work on Sunday by creating an inventory of the second department of the museum that includes pharaonic monuments [...] The Secretary General of the Higher Council of Antiquities, Dr. Mohamed Abdel Maksood, said the museum includes over a 100,000 artifacts, recorded on 120 paper documents and electronically. He clarified this is not the first time to create an inventory for the Egyptian museum [...] Dr. Mahmoud al-Helwagy said the museum [...] had an inventory created many times before and confirms the inventory process continues for years each time. He said that the inventory process always is always a result of complaints the museum gets through a robbery attempt.
So the Museum staff cannot actually do/ have not actually done this? Why not? What then has been going on in the past six months? A while ago Dr Yasmin El Shazly, Head of Documentation at The Egyptian Museum was slagging me off for "not supporting" the Museum in questioning on my blog the stories that were being told about the looting (see the post below this for more on that), so I feel justified in asking just what she and her staff have been doing that needed "supporting" now an external commission has been called in to do the work her team should have been doing (completing)? I am not clear what it means that this external audit was called for by the public prosecutor, whether the Museum is under investigation for mismanagement and subsequent cover up? That would be an interesting development, let's see what happens.

Dena Abdel-Aleem (translated by Bishoy Ramzy Reyad), 'Egyptian Museum's inventory committee start work tomorrow', Al Youm 7, July 10, 2011.

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