Angela Stienne
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The displayed mummy, the displaced body
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This chapter begins with Bes-en-Mut and Ta-Bes, two mummies located at the Leicester Museum & Art Gallery. They were acquired by John Mason Cook, son of Thomas Cook, who used his connections to bring them to England around 1880. This is one of many instances of calculated enterprises for removing mummies from their resting places in Egypt and displacing them to Europe.

Travelling back further, the chapter looks at the example of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, a British aristocrat who attempted to acquire a mummy in the early eighteenth century. By this point in time, mummies were sought-after items among the European elite, who displayed them in private cabinets of curiosities. The practice was particularly widespread in Paris, since there was not yet a centralised museum. Major collectors included Joseph Bonnier de la Mosson and the Comte de Caylus.

The final part of the chapter explores one of the most representative episodes of power and displacement in French history: Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt. Although the cultural element of this expedition is usually distinguished from the military element, they were closely related. Indeed, the cultural expedition and its resulting publication, Description de l’Égypte, have been used to depict the campaign in a more favourable light.

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The stories behind Egyptian mummies in museums


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