Center for Egyptian Art and Archaeology

Mission Statement

  • To teach Egyptology courses at The University of Memphis.
  • To research ancient Egypt.
  • To educate the public about ancient Egypt.
  • To exhibit Egyptian antiquities for the Memphis community.


Since 1985, the Center for Egyptian Art and Archaeology has established a solid record of accomplishment and an international reputation for its programs. Scholars from Eu- rope and Egypt have contributed to its research and educational activities. Center staff have also taken part in archaeological and epigraphic research in Egypt and have contrib- uted to books, symposia and conferences throughout the United States and Europe. The support of the Center of Excellence grant, combined with additional grants and gifts from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and private and corporate sources, has led to a variety of successful projects.

Major Accomplishments

Economic Impact The center curated the Ramesses the Great Exhibition for the city of Memphis in 1987. Nearly 700,000 people visited the exhibition, which ran from April through August, to view 150 antiquities on loan from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt. The center wrote the catalog that accompanied the exhibition to five other cities and trained over 1,000 decent volunteers to lead tours. The city of Memphis has calculated that the exhibi- tion generated over $80 million in tourist revenues for Memphis and Shelby County. In conjunction with the opening of the exhibition, the center also hosted a symposium featuring 17 international scholars of Egyptology, an event which established the center's international reputation for outstanding performance.

Educational Impact Since its inception, the center has been teaching undergraduate courses in the art, history and language of ancient Egypt. Because of the center, students at The University of Memphis can now earn a master's degree in art history with a concentration in Egyptian art and archaeology

The center's staff also wrote and published the first comprehensive Teacher's Guide to Ancient Egypt, which includes lesson plans and a slide set, for students at the sixth grade level. The guide has been so successful that the National Endowment for the Arts, which funded the development of the guide, has awarded a second grant to the center to produce a new edition in 1996. Requests for the existing guide have been received from over 34 states and it has led to invitations to consult with the education staffs of the Brooklyn Museum in New York, the Louvre in Paris and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

This black grano-diorite head of the Egyptian god Amun, donated to the institute by a consortium of Memphis businessmen, is displayed in The Art Museum of The University ofMemphis. It symbolizes how the support of the community complements support from the Center of Excellence grant.
The center maintains the permanent collection of Egyptian antiquities at The Art Museum of The University of Memphis. Thanks to gifts and bequests, this collection has grown from 47 to over 400 Egyptian antiquities under the center's care. Volunteer docents, trained by the center, have led thousands of school children and university students on tours of the collection.

The center also maintains the Egyptian Library, a collection of approximately 6,000 rare and out-of-print volumes about ancient Egypt. The core of the library is two gifts from the collections of Professor W. Fairman and Professor Elizabeth Thomas, two noted Egyptologists. The library has made it possible for the three scholars associated with the center to produce numerous books and articles, as well as conference papers, that en- hance the center's international reputation.

The staff of the center themselves have established an international reputation also, receiving invitations to speak at major universities and museums in England, Germany and Egypt, as well as at major Egyptological centers throughout the United States.

Impact on the Archaeological Field

The center was associated with the Egypt Exploration Society of London, England, in its excavations at the site of ancient Memphis from 1984 to 1990. Center scholars and students worked alongside colleagues from Great Britain and Australia to learn more about this ancient capitol of Egypt.

In 1990, the center began its first independent project in Egypt at the Great Hypostyle Hall of Karnak. The staff of the Center for Egyptian Art and Archaeology has sole re- sponsibility for recording, translating and publishing the inscriptions and reliefs on the walls of the most famous room in Egypt's largest and most important ancient temple. This project, which will last until the year 2010, will allow Egyptologists to study the religious rituals depicted on the walls of the Hypostyle Hall and to learn about the building's history and use for a 2,000-year period of antiquity.


The successful completion of the center's first 10 years provides a solid base for future endeavors. Future plans include an exhibition on its epigraphic project at the Hypostyle Hall of the Temple of Karnak, an international conference on Egyptian tombs for the benefit of Memphis and Shelby County teachers (sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts), and the installation of the center's major new bequest of antiquities, which it acquired in 1995 in its exhibition at The Art Museum of The University of Memphis.