History of the Archive

The Museo Egizio Photographic Archive consists of about 45,000 images. They are divided between approximately 25,000 photographic plates on glass or celluloid, 15,000 slides and 4,500 19th/20th century prints. The Photographic Archive presents a selection of about 3000 images, , implemented through collaboration with various organisations and associations.

Although the emergence, development and diffusion of the photography took place in the first part of the 19th century (daguerreotype, calotype, etc.), Museo Egizio only had its first contact with cameras in the last quarter of the century. The systematic use of cameras, which gave rise to the Museum's first photographic archive, is due to the efforts of Ernesto Schiaparelli, Museum director from 1894 to 1928. It was his archaeological work beginning in 1903 that enabled the acquisition of thousands of photographic plates, in glass and celluloid, to document the research carried out in numerous Egyptian sites until 1920.

The research would continue with further photographs under the direction of Giulio Farina between 1930 and 1937. This corpus of material was then joined (again by Schiaparelli) with numerous photographic plates depicting objects kept in the Museum, as well as museum exhibits.

Since the 1970s modern colour and B/W slides have been added to the archive. In addition to documenting single objects, they also cover Egyptian landscapes and archaeological sites. A series of reproductions on paper must also be added to this material. One part refers to prints by famous 19th century photographers relating to the Egyptian environment known at the time; another part refers to the printing of some 3500 photographic plates.

In the course of its history, the Museum has indeed acquired several 19th Century photographs on paper, taken by professional and amateur photographers, which have formed the current '19th century photographs' collection. All the material, as of 2018, is currently stored in a suitably air-conditioned room, called the Historical Photo Library (Fototeca Storica), inside the Museum building.