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The stories behind Egyptian mummies in museums

Two mummies buried in a museum garden … a coffin that rotates … skulls amassed for dubious research … What if the most interesting stories about Egyptian mummies are not the ones you know?

Mummified explores the curious, unsettling and controversial stories of the Egyptian mummies held by museums in France and Britain. From powdered mummies consumed as medicine, to mummies unrolled in public, dissected for race studies and DNA-tested in modern laboratories, there is a lot more to these ancient human remains than meets the eye. Following mummies on their journeys from Egypt to museums and private collections in Paris, London, Leicester and Manchester, the book revisits the history of these bodies that have fascinated Europeans for so long.

Mummified explores stories of life and death, of collecting and viewing, and of interactions – sometimes violent and sometimes moving – that raise questions about the essence of what makes us human.

Angela Stienne

. They might be ‘silly’ theories, at odds with education and science, but how can visitors to museums with Egyptian material culture know about the pervasive history of the whitewashing of Egyptian achievement if these stories are not told and interrogated? Let us return to the Musée de l’Homme for a moment, a museum we left in the last chapter when the remains of Saartjie Baartman were repatriated to

in Mummified
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Angela Stienne

attempt to demonstrate that her people were the missing link between humans and apes. Saint-Hilaire subsequently applied to retain them, and they were put on display in the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, before they were moved to another Parisian institution, the Musée de l’Homme, in 1937. In his report, Cuvier stated that ‘[Neither the] bushman, nor any race of Negros, gave birth to the celebrated

in Mummified
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Michel Zimbacca’s L’Invention du monde
Michael Löwy

and Legends. 10 Zimbacca and Bédouin also selected the impressive musical background to the film from the collections of musical ethnology at the Musée de l’Homme. It includes songs, dances, and other pieces from Mexico ( Figures 2.4 ), Japan, Bali, Brazil, Australia, Africa (Pygmies), the United States (indigenous tribes), Haiti (vodou), and more. Figure 2.3 Michel Zimbacca with Jean-Louis Bédouin, L’Invention du monde , 1952 Figure 2.4 Michel Zimbacca with Jean-Louis Bédouin, L’Invention du monde , 1952 One of the most original ideas

in Surrealism and film after 1945
The International Institute of African Languages and Cultures between the wars
Benoît de L’Estoile

research, culminating in the new Museum of Man (Musée de l’Homme), inaugurated in 1937. The emphasis on the collection of ‘data’ (including artifacts) – the accumulation of which would progressively furnish the basis for later ‘synthesis’ – implied mobilizing vast numbers of ‘collaborators’, amateur ethnographers, colonial administrators and educated Africans, working together to

in Ordering Africa
Open Access (free)
Sharing anthropology
Paul Henley

research institute in France, the CNRS. By this time, he was already closely associated with the Musée de l’Homme, which, in 1952, became the seat of the newly created Comité du film ethnographique. Rouch was appointed its general secretary, a position that he would retain for the rest of his life: the Comité would become the principal vehicle through which he would conduct his professional affairs, including the production of most of his films. Apart from a brief interlude in 1951–53, when he was temporarily expelled for failing to complete his doctoral thesis on time

in Beyond observation
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Angela Stienne

, where, in 1896, he was unwrapped to ascertain his identity. 7 The pharaoh had by this point been on quite a series of unwanted adventures, but things kept going downhill when his body did not take all these changes too well and started to deteriorate. 8 This is how he found himself on a return trip to Paris, to visit none other than the Musée de l’Homme, which had the

in Mummified
Gary Wilder

These scientific missions also enabled Paul Rivet between 1928 and 1937 to transform the older Musée d’Ethnographie into the modern Musée de l’Homme, which became the repository of ethnographic objects systematically collected by the research teams. Its expansion and reorganization were funded by the Ministry of Colonies and it was formally affiliated with the Institut

in Ordering Africa
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Jonathan Chatwin

’s provided particular training in the skill of ascertaining provenance and of paring down description: ‘He wouldn’t have had that discipline without being at Sotheby’s, that’s the thing, of observation’, comments Elizabeth (2007). It also schooled him in the techniques and virtues of thorough background investigation; Elizabeth recalls his ‘endless research’ (US 1) at the British Museum and Musée de l’Homme in Paris. He told Colin Thubron of the influence of these experiences: ‘The technique of art detective-work – treasure hunting – is the way in which I research a story

in Anywhere out of the world
James Clifford

the word anthropology is largely suppressed, hidden underneath the acronym MOA: ‘World Arts and Cultures’. I do not want to exaggerate the significance of the rebranding exercise. The Vancouver museum continues its pioneering work with NorthWest Coast societies, collaborations that have made it famous, even as it opens out to Asian, Latin American and Afro-Caribbean projects.28 But name changes are not superficial. Not when understood as part of a pervasive shift. Musée de l’Homme becomes Musée du Quai Branly; Berlin’s Ethnologisches Museum is absorbed by the

in Curatopia