Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1998-1999 index

Distributed July 30, 1998
Contact: Linda Mahdesian

The Egyptians are coming

Year-long celebration marks 50th anniversary of Egyptology

Brown University will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its Department of Egyptology and the 200th anniversary of the study of Egypt with a year-long series of events beginning in September. The celebration will include illustrated talks, art exhibitions and a costume ball on Halloween.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- This year Brown University commemorates the 50th anniversary of its Department of Egyptology, North America's only academic department exclusively devoted to the study of ancient Egypt. Three exhibits, an art show, illustrated lectures, a costume ball on Halloween, and a talk by a famed writer of mysteries are scheduled as part of the celebration. The department was founded in 1948 with an endowment from Theodora Wilbour, daughter of America's first professionally trained Egyptologist, Charles Edwin Wilbour of Little Compton, R.I., who attended Brown with the Class of 1854.

This year also commemorates the 200th anniversary of the founding of the field of Egyptology, the study of ancient Egypt. Egyptology is traced to Napoleon Bonaparte's invasions of Egypt in the summer of 1798 with an army of 24,000 soldiers and a troop of 167 French scientists, artists and engineers. These experts were commissioned to study all aspects of the country, its natural history, geography and antiquity. In the course of this French occupation, the Rosetta Stone was discovered and the scientists collected specimens, produced maps and drew the ancient monuments. Eventually the scholars produced a mammoth, multivolume publication called the Description of Egypt.

Early interest in the land of the pharaohs is being commemorated with an exhibit of rare books from the University's collection reflecting on the "Rediscovery of Ancient Egypt." The exhibit includes Brown's copies of the Napoleonic folios as well as volumes by Champollion, Rosellini, Lepsius, Roberts and others. The John Hay Library exhibit, which was organized by Leonard H. Lesko, the Wilbour Professor of Egyptology, includes 80 books published before 1850 (some dating back to the 15th century) by early explorers and travelers in Egypt. Also present will be volumes related to deciphering the hieroglyphs. This exhibit at the Hay Library continues through September. Another exhibit, October through November in the Rockefeller Library lobby, will feature the 50 books produced by faculty and staff of Brown's Department of Egyptology.

Calendar of Events:

All events listed below are free and open to the public, except for the Costume Ball on Oct. 31, which is a fund-raiser to benefit fellowships in Egyptology at Brown. More events are being planned for spring semester 1999. Details will be announced as they are confirmed.

September 11, 1998; 8 p.m.
Lownes Room, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect St.

Wilbour Professor of Egyptology Leonard H. Lesko will present an illustrated lecture titled "The Rediscovery of Ancient Egypt: Early Publications in Brown's Special Collections."

October 8 - November 21, 1998; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Annmary Brown Memorial, 21 Brown St.

An exhibition titled "Archaeological Artists in Egypt" will celebrate American contributions to Egyptology of an artistic nature. The show will feature works by watercolor artist Howard Carter who later went on to discover Tutankhamun's tomb. Carter began his career in Egypt as an illustrator for the Rhode Island archaeologist Theodore Davis who dug in the famed Valley of the Kings in the first decade of this century. Nina and Norman Davies and Charles Wilkinson of the Metropolitan Museum of Art recreated the brilliantly painted tomb art of ancient Thebes through watercolors to scale. Besides these watercolors, two galleries will exhibit 40 oil paintings by Rhode Island artist Joseph Lindon Smith (1863-1950), who spent 50 years in Egypt replicating art he saw on the walls of temples and tombs. There will be a full-color catalogue of the Smith paintings which includes essays by Barbara S. Lesko, project director for the Department of Egyptology's 50th anniversary celebration, and Diana Wolfe Larkin, guest curator. Epigraphic work done in Egypt, some dating back to Charles Edwin Wilbour, will also be exhibited.

October 7, 1998; 8 p.m.
Annmary Brown Memorial, 21 Brown St. (gallery opens 7:30 p.m.)

A panel of Egyptologists convened by Leonard H. Lesko will gather in the Annmary Brown Memorial to present "Yankees on the Nile: New England's Contributions to Egyptology."

October 14, 1998; 8 p.m.
Annmary Brown Memorial, 21 Brown St.

British Egyptologist Nigel Strudwick, who has spent many seasons recording and publishing articles about ancient tombs in the Luxor area, will present an illustrated talk about archaeological artists Norman and Nina Davies, whose watercolors make up part of the exhibition in the Annmary Brown Memorial on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

October 17, 1998; 3 p.m.
Salomon Center for Teaching, The College Green

Popular mystery writer and professional Egyptologist Barbara Mertz (a.k.a. Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels) will speak and autograph her latest book.

Oct. 21, 1998; 8 p.m.
Annmary Brown Memorial, 21 Brown St.

The ambitious American epigraphic expeditions to Egypt and the need for continuing the copying and publishing of Egypt's ancient monuments will be the focus of a talk by Lanny Bell, former director of the Epigraphic Survey of the University of Chicago in Luxor, Egypt, and currently adjunct professor of Egyptian archaeology in Brown's Department of Egyptology.

October 31, 1998 (Halloween); 8 p.m.
Alumnae Hall, 194 Meeting St.

This Costume Ball will be a benefit to raise money for fellowships in Egyptology at Brown. Costumes reflecting ancient Egypt or the Napoleonic discoverers of Egypt are encouraged. Al Conte and his band will provide music.

November 9, 1998; 8 p.m.
(location to be announced)

William Peck of the Detroit Museum of Art will present an illustrated lecture titled "Excavations in the Precinct of the Goddess Mut, Karnak," sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America.

November 22, 1998; 3 p.m.
Providence Athenaeum, 251 Benefit St.

Barbara S. Lesko of Brown University's Egyptology Department will present an illustrated talk titled "Napoleon and the Description of Egypt." This talk will accompany a special exhibit of the Athenaeum's holdings in early Egyptology, which includes the Description de l'Égypte.

December 10, 1998; 8 p.m.
Lownes Room, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect St.

The birthday of Brown's first Wilbour Professor of Egyptology, Richard A. Parker, will be remembered by the department with a Parker Memorial Lecture, presented by Associate Professor Leo Depuydt, dealing with a topic that will be "in the spirit of Richard A. Parker."

Funding for these programs was provided by the Rhode Island Committee for the Humanities, while the exhibition of the Archaeological Artists in Egypt was principally funded by the Felicia Foundation of Providence, Estise and Frank Mauran, and former Brown President Vartan Gregorian.

For more information, contact the Brown News Bureau at 401/863-2476.