Completing a chain of temporary exhibitions, inside Egypt and out, featuring Egypt’s history from different eras, Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Anany inaugurated on Sunday the ministry’s latest exhibition, Capturing Egypt on Glass: Photographic Treasures from the Ministry of Antiquities Archives, in the the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. The exhibition is the result of cooperation between the Ministry of Antiquities and the British Museum.
It showcases pictures and negatives of Egypt’s several eras that were captured by prominent photographers. The exhibition runs until 31 May.
The opening witnessed the attendance of Hartwig Fischer, director of the British Museum, as well as Cyprus and Serbia’s ambassadors to Egypt.
Through sets of pictures, descriptions of where they were taken, and the story behind them aside each one, the exhibition focuses on photographs from the 18th and 19th centuries. The showcased items are a set of 21 glass negatives and six paintings, each depicting a different side of Egypt’s long history.
The exhibition also highlights the means that were used to preserve the negatives by the Ministry of Antiquities, in addition to displaying a collection of old cameras that were used for photographing on glass.
“The exhibition shows the most important glass negatives that were documented through the Egyptian Documentation Project that started in March 2017 until April 2018,” said Hisham El-Leithy, general director of the Antiquities Documentation Centre.
The photographs are from among of the ministry’s rich archive, El-Leithy said, adding that the showcases are part of a bigger archived collection that contains more than 60,000 different glass negatives, stored in the Egyptian Antiquities Documentation Centre and the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Tahrir Square, along with more than 100,000 images.
The first photographs taken of any of the Egyptian monuments was in 1839, at the hands of the French painter and photographer Horace Vernet and others. The photo was of the Ras El Tin Palace in Alexandria. Soon after, thousands of photographers roamed Egypt to document its ancient gems through photography.
Most of the negatives documenting monuments archived at the ministry, especially the ones that were captured in the beginning of the 19th century, were captured by foreigner photographers. However, most of the Egyptian photographers that documented the artefacts and the process of unearthing them are not known.