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  • The life of Jacques de Morgan
  • Egypt (1892-1897)
  • Breathing new life into museums

As director of the Service des Antiquités égyptiennes, Jacques de Morgan set about a complete reorganisation of the country’s museums.

Museum of Alexandria

Jacques de Morgan's predecessor, Eugène Grébaut had planned to open a museum of Greek and Roman artefacts in Alexandria, and had already set the wheels in motion. But the agreement with the British had been signed on unfavourable terms to the Service. Morgan managed to secure a veto over staff appointments, however, and granted an excavation permit, renewable for five years, to the local authority. This enabled France to retain control over archaeological activities in the region.

Giza Museum

Up to this point, Ancient Egypt collections had been exhibited in the Boulaq Museum. Although Grébaut transferred them to the Giza Museum, it was under Jacques de Morgan’s stewardship that the entire collection was catalogued in just six months. He also arranged the opening of forty-six new rooms, inaugurated with great pomp in the presence of the khedive.

Egyptian Museum of Cairo

Although the changes made to Giza were a great improvement, the building, a former palace, was poorly suited to its new function. Far out of town, the museum had other disadvantages, including a wooden structure which left it vulnerable to fire. Jacques de Morgan therefore decided to build a new museum in Cairo.

He arranged a loan from the Egyptian cabinet and organised an international architecture competition for its construction. In 1897, Morgan held a ceremony to lay the foundation stone in the presence of the khedive. The museum did not open officially until 1904, however, several years after Morgan’s departure.