New exhibition opens to mark centenary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb


Tutankhamun: Excavating the Archive - A new exhibition opens at Weston Library, Oxford to mark centenary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb
Tutankhamun: Excavating the Archive is a new exhibition at the Weston Library in Oxford to mark the centenary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.

In November 1922, as Egypt became an independent nation, the archaeological world was turned upside down with the discovery of the largely intact tomb of Tutankhamun.

One of the most culturally significant ancient Egyptian royal burials ever found, the discovery would propel its excavator, Howard Carter, and photographer Harry Burton to international fame.

In celebration of 100 years since the discovery of the tomb of this young king, the Bodleian Libraries are pleased to announce a special exhibition covering this momentous event in Egypt’s history with fresh eyes.

The exhibition to mark centenary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb will include photographs, letters, plans, drawings and diaries from an archive that was originally created by the excavators and then presented after Carter’s death to the Griffith Institute, the centre of Egyptology at the University of Oxford.

The archive enables a view of the complexities of both the remarkably well-preserved ancient burial and the modern excavation, including the often-overlooked Egyptian members of the archaeological team and their crucial role in the discovery, as depicted in photographs taken by Harry Burton.

Tutankhamun: Excavating the Archive’ will run from 13 April 2022 to early February 2023 at the Weston Library. Egyptologists Professor Richard Bruce Parkinson and Dr Daniela Rosenow have curated a selection of items from the archive of the Griffith Institute, working in close collaboration with the Bodleian Libraries.

The exhibition will be the most comprehensive presentation of items held by the Griffith Institute to date, showcasing a stunning range of original documentation. It presents a vivid first-hand account of the excavation and of the meticulous work that went into documenting and conserving the ancient Egyptian artefacts.

The exhibit will spotlight the original pocket diary of Carter himself, describing the moment of discovery, and the diary of Minnie Burton, wife of the photographer Harry Burton.

This latter item, a recent acquisition by the Griffith Institute, documents several work seasons in Egypt and provides insight into the life of a woman involved in an archaeological expedition at the time.

A wide array of original plans and record cards featuring Carter’s own notes and illustrations of the artefacts will be displayed to showcase the value of the archive in understanding one of the world’s most famous archaeological discoveries.

The exhibition is committed to foregrounding Egyptian participants and their many accounts of the find. It is complemented by the publication of a companion book, Tutankhamun: Excavating the Archive, which provides a comprehensive selection of items from the archive.

Tutankhamun: Excavating the Archive Exhibition Book
The exhibition to mark centenary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb is complemented by a book – Tutankhamun: Excavating the Archive.

The book, by the Griffith Institute, edited by Richard Bruce Parkinson and published by Bodleian Library Publishing is available to buy at Amazon.co.uk, Blackwell’s, Waterstones, and The Bodleian Shop.

Professor Richard Bruce Parkinson, Co-curator of Tutankhamun: Excavating the Archive, said: “There is so much more to the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun than ‘golden treasures’: the excavator’s archive lets us see beyond the colonialist popular stereotypes, and it documents the humanity of the modern and ancient people who worked on the tomb.

“The excavation was not achieved by a solitary heroic English archaeologist but by the modern Egyptian team members, who have so often been overlooked and written out of the story. We hope the exhibition will contextualize, celebrate, interrogate and criticize the famous discovery that it commemorates.”

Dr Daniela Rosenow, Co-curator of Tutankhamun: Excavating the Archive, said: “Having worked on excavations in Egypt for more than 20 years, I am particularly excited to be able to relive this biggest archaeological discovery through the records of the archaeological processes with all its different types of documents, and to get a sense of the diversity of the team members involved.”

Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian, said: “We are delighted to be working with the Griffith Institute on this important exhibition marking the
centenary of the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun.

“The wide range of documentation will provide visitors with a compelling insight into the academic, personal and physical journeys undertaken by Carter’s team to excavate and catalogue one of the most famous archaeological finds in history.

“We hope visitors to the show can become immersed in this momentous project, especially through exploring the hidden voices from the team and will join us in celebrating the work of everyone involved with the discovery.”

The Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford is the largest university library system in the UK. It includes the principal University library – the Bodleian Library – which has been a legal deposit library for 400 years, as well as 27 libraries across Oxford, including major research libraries and faculty, department and institute libraries.

Together, the Bodleian Libraries hold more than 13 million printed items, over 80,000 e-journals, and outstanding special collections, including rare books, manuscripts, classical papyri, maps, music, art and printed ephemera.

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