From Kemet to the New World: History and Reception of the first Egyptian Collection in Latin America

  • André Onofre Limírio Chaves (Author)

    ANDRÉ ONOFRE LIMÍRIO CHAVES holds a Licence in History and is currently a master’s student in the Postgraduate Studies Programme of the Department of History of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG – Brazil) and a CAPES Fellow. His research focuses on the formation of the Egyptian collections of the National Museum of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and of the Mariano Procópio Museum, located in the state of Minas Gerais. He is a participant in the African Ivories in the Atlantic World: A Reassessment of Luso-African Ivories Project, and a member of Rariorum—Nucleus for Researches in the History of Collections and Museums (School of Information Science, UFMG).

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Abstract

This paper aims to analyse the process of formation of the Egyptian collection of the Royal/Imperial Museum (currently National Museum of Federal University of Rio de Janeiro – State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), situating it in the nineteenth-century contexts of collecting of curiosities and formation of museums, and relating it to the diverse modalities of collection of Egyptian antiquities present in Imperial Brazil. This collection, acquired in 1826, is extremely important for an understanding of the collecting practices of the period and their relationship to the establishment of interest in ancient Egypt in the New World. This collection of Egyptian antiquities reinforced the original mission of the Museum, that of mirroring itself in the great European museums, as well as following the collecting tendencies of these nations. In addition, the collection gained remarkable prominence in its time, and it is possible to retrace the trajectory of the uses given to it by the institution as a way to understand its many forms of reception and meaning during the nineteenth century.
Tragically on 2 September 2018 the Egyptian collection of the National Museum of UFRJ was largely destroyed in a fire, which devastated the entire museum. It is probable that stone objects have survived, but the majority of this seven-hundred-item collection, including the mummies and their coffins, no longer exists.

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