Wouter Claes (Royal Museum of Arts and History, Brussels)
Title: Egypt through a Belgian Lens: Jean Capart and his collection of photographic glass plate negatives
Abstract: Under the impetus of Jean Capart (1877–1947), Belgium gradually rose to importance on the international Egyptological scene in the early 20th century, with the Royal Museums of Art and History (RMAH) as its epicentre. Its famous Egyptological library certainly was a defining factor in this development and is still considered to be one of the finest Egyptological libraries in the world. Besides books and journals, this library also houses an important photographic archive. In this conference we will present a large sub-collection of almost 7.000 historical glass plate negatives that are currently being studied in the framework of the SURA project. These photos document the pioneering years of Egyptology in Belgium from the perspective of Jean Capart and his collaborators. The core of the collection consists of images of the sites where Capart and his team conducted archaeological excavations on behalf of the RMAH and the Fondation égyptologique Reine Élisabeth. However, the collection is broader than this and also contains thousands of photos of other sites and monuments—many of them during excavations by other international or Egyptian missions—along with images of objects in various museum collections worldwide. The collection also offers a rich and varied picture of the Egyptian landscape, its fauna and flora, as well as the daily life of the Egyptian population during the first half of the 20th century.