Dr: Hussein Bassir
The creation of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) is one of the most ambitious construction and antiquities projects ever undertaken in Egypt. Intended as a new and modern home for Tutankhamun, conservation, scientific, and archaeological research in Egypt and the field of Egyptology, the GEM’s mission is to be a host for international research in the vastly interconnected field of Egyptology and Egyptian archaeology. Furthermore, the GEM’s vision is to be the major excellent museum for ancient Egyptian history and civilization and to be an exemplar of Egypt’s interaction and cultural exchange with the world, past and present.
Located close to the pyramid fields of Giza, the GEM serves to symbolically link Egypt’s past with its future. The museum is a part of the Ministry of Antiquities (MoA) and focuses on displaying the persity of ancient Egyptian cultural heritage and preserving the fascinating legacy of Egypt.
While the primary display facilities are presently under construction, the GEM Conservation Center was completed in 2010 and is bustling with activity. The GEM is around 500.000 square meters in size and will be constructed at a cost of approximately one billion US dollars. The GEM will cover and display the history and culture of ancient Egyptian civilization from the earliest Predynastic evidence through the Greco-Roman Period. Approximately 100.000 pieces with be displayed and stored at the GEM, the most famous among them being the collection of the Golden Pharaoh, Tutankhamun. The great colossal statue of the legendary king Ramses II, previously displayed at Cairo’s Ramses Station, will receive visitors to the museum at the entrance. The second boat of king Khufu is planned to be restored and displayed at the GEM in a separate gallery when its restoration and conservation project is completed. The GEM will have six huge galleries of thematic and chronological exhibit displays, offering thousands of job opportunities during construction and after opening. The GEM will open partially to the public in 2018 and will be capable of receiving millions of tourists annually.
Collaboration and international links are cornerstones of the GEM’s mission and existence, including Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) financial and technical support. From 2008-2012, JICA established the Archeological Database Department in order to register the GEM artifacts, which will be owned by the museum. Moreover, JICA has offered technical support to the Grand Egyptian Museum Conservation center since 2008. JICA has offered numerous opportunities to train GEM staff, including several courses in Egypt and supporting dozens of overseas trips for further training.
In order to support further interactions between GEM personnel and foreign institutions and scholars, in 2012 the GEM launched the Grand Egyptian Museum Conservation Center Symposium. The symposium serves as an annual meeting for conservators of the GEM, the MoA and the Egyptian universities and institutions and has a specific theme, several invited scholars and keynote speakers from Egypt and abroad are invited.
The GEM has a formal library specialized to assist researchers and presently containing approximately thousands of references, old and modern, printed and digital, including audiovisual items. The library subjects are primarily conversation and technical study of Egyptian materials.
Through a series of internships and internationally funded initiatives, training courses are offered to GEM staff in Egypt, Japan, Singapore, USA, England, France, Germany, and several other countries. During these courses of study, Egyptian staff and personnel are being trained in archaeology, Egyptology, art and architecture, museology, conversation, and preservation of cultural heritage. GEM staff study Egyptology, restoration and conservation, IT management, business administration, museum studies, exhibition and design, and text writing.
The GEM’s director general started a cultural seminar program in 2012, inviting Egyptian and foreign scholars to give talks at the GEMCC lecture hall. Through these lectures GEM staff meet with and engage scholars who teach, consult, and collaborate with them regarding recent trends and modern theories about Egyptology, restoration and conservation, museology, and cultural heritage. The GEM’s director general and his team participate, direct, supervise, and organize archaeological congresses at home, projects to save and restore Egyptian antiquities, archaeological excavation, media, written and photographed guided for the public, and scientific publications of GEM and MoA. Further, the GEM’s Director General gives press conferences and media interviews and writes to the foreign, Arabic and Egyptian media, sharing the news of the GEM; GEM coverage regularly appears in newspapers, television, magazines, specialized periodicals in Egypt, the Arab World, and the world.
The GEM is working on numerous projects hand-in-hand with Egyptian and foreign institutions. For example, GEMCC staff are restoring the copy of the Description de l’Égypte owned by the Supreme Council of Antiquities Ancient Egyptian Documentation Center, conserving the Abu Rawash boats recently discovered by the Institute français d’archéologie oriental, and the Khufu II boat being excavated by Waseda University.
As a leading conservation, educational, and research center in the region, the GEM also offers assistance to foreign institutions for training conservators and curators, setting up and planning similar facilities, and creating institutional programs for new institutions.
The grand vision is that the GEM, the Giza pyramids and the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (at Fustat, Cairo) will be a triangle of Egyptian tourism and the most visited tourist venues in Cairo- a must-see series for any tourist to Egypt, but also a home of international collaboration with modern research and conservation facilities. When the GEM fully opens in the coming years, the museum is expected to be run by a private administration with only the ownership of the antiquities by the state (MoA), with a board of trustees, in order to maintain the museum and keep its mission running in perpetuity, forever and ever.