Exploring Ancient Egypt via the Griffith Institute

Submitting Institution

University of Oxford

Unit of Assessment

Area Studies

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration, Political Science
History and Archaeology: Curatorial and Related Studies

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Summary of the impact

The Griffith Institute represents the public face of Egyptology in the University. It houses, analyses, and publishes one of the world's premier Egyptological archives, including the complete excavation records of the tomb of Tutankhamun. The Institute has national and international impact in sustaining ancient Egypt as an area of study, as well as enhancing and deepening its status in broader communities through participation in and facilitation of exhibitions, documentaries, newspaper and magazine articles, and books of many types for wide audiences (including children). It makes itself accessible through its online presence and through behind the scenes tours for a range of audiences.

Underpinning research

The Griffith Institute at the University of Oxford maintains the world's largest archive of papers of Egyptologists, as well as a major collection of historic images (photographs, drawings, and paintings) of Egypt and the Levant. The collections expand continually and are used actively and internationally for scholarship. The development and publication of this renowned, comprehensive textual and visual archive for ancient and modern Egypt is sustained through the Institute's primary research projects. The Topographical Bibliography (TB) brings together published and archival material for analysis and synthesis by the editor. It was founded in the 1890s and is now moving into online provision under Vincent Razanajao (since August 2012). The five most recent volumes are by Jaromir Malek (in post 1971-2011), assisted by Elizabeth Fleming née Miles (1983-present), Diana Magee (1981-2010), and Alison Hobby (1999-2012); these appeared in 1999 (8.1-2, in three volumes), 2007 (8.3), and 2012 (8.4).

As a research conspectus, the TB provides a fundamental, universally recognised point of departure for research on Egyptian artefacts and sites, many of which await full publication. It offers comprehensive published and unpublished information about inscribed monuments and artefacts, including architecture, iconography, texts, attributions, and datings in addition to the bibliographical data. For some sites, much of the ancient setting can only be modelled through sources in archives and in publications of the eighteenth to early twentieth centuries that recorded places before the enormous changes of the last 150 years. The TB gathers, orders, analyses, and presents such material, and the staff ensure that the Archive holdings are intensively researched before being made available. Research for the TB consolidates all relevant information about sites and monuments into forms that can be displayed online and searched, and incorporates archival materials, alongside museum records and print publications, into the network of resources held by the Institute.

Specialized and extremely valuable records that are maintained in the Institute's Archive include, for example, catalogues of the images within 18th and 19th century manuscripts including watercolours and commercially distributed photographs, with identifications of what they represent and where other records of the same places and objects can be found. The range of material that the Institute presents online increases constantly, while conservation work in the Archive (in collaboration with the Ashmolean Museum and Bodleian Library) safeguards fragile records for the future. Where practicable, material in the Archive is recorded in archive-quality scans and placed online for easy access.

The open-access website makes significant parts of the Institute's resources and research directly accessible (http://www.griffith.ox.ac.uk). The site offers databases that provide carefully structured, searchable access to the Archive. The databases derive from the years of research, analysis, and identification by the whole TB team, often in collaboration with scholars around the world. For example, the open-access database Tutankhamun: Anatomy of an Excavation, developed under Jaromir Malek and placed online in 2001, is designed for use by both scholars and non-specialists, and presents and explains the full archaeological record for the richest complete tomb ever discovered in Egypt.

A second major project, the Online Egyptological Bibliography (OEB, http://oeb.griffith. ox.ac.uk), a subscriber service, provides the broadest window onto publications in Egyptology. It was acquired in January 2009 both for its great intrinsic value and to complement and provide an automated reference base for the more site-focused TB and Archive. OEB, which is developing rapidly, offers over 107,000 records with abstracts and keywords, adding more than 2500 new publications annually. OEB, which incorporates the Munich website Aigyptos, is an international project, led by the grant-holder Oxford University, with important partners in Germany, Italy, Japan, and the USA. Integration of OEB with the projected online version of the TB has begun.

References to the research

Porter, Bertha, Rosalind L. B. Moss (with Ethel W. Burney), and Jaromir Malek. 1999-2012. Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Statues, Reliefs, and Paintings. Volume 8, parts 1-4. Objects of Provenance not known etc. Oxford: Griffith Institute.
Print publication in 5 volumes. Available on request.
Sample review of Vol. viii, parts 1-3: `Il nous paraît superflu de refaire ici l'éloge de la Topographical Bibliography, œuvre magnifique qui est devenue un des principaux instruments de travail de l'égyptologue.' (H. De Meulenaere, Bibliotheca Orientalis 58 (1-2) 2001, 78).

Malek, Jaromir, with Jonathan Moffett, Sue Hutchison, Elizabeth Miles, Diana Magee, Kent Rawlinson. 2001. Tutankhamun: Anatomy of an Excavation. The Howard Carter Archives. Online databases of the records of the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. http://www.griffith.ox.ac.uk/tutankhamundiscovery.html

Malek, Jaromir, with Jonathan Moffett, Elizabeth Miles, Kent Rawlinson, Lev Kaptiaikin, Junghwa Choi. 2006. Egyptian Mirage and Levantine Mirage: databases of 19th-century "studio photographs" of Egypt and the Levant, mainly in the collection of the Griffith Institute, Oxford. http://www.griffith.ox.ac.uk/gri/4mirage.html and http://www.griffith.ox.ac.uk/gri/4mirlev.html

Online Egyptological Bibliography: http://oeb.griffith.ox.ac.uk (subscriber website: members of the International Association of Egyptologists are the fourth-heaviest user group); PI John Baines (2009-14), coordinating editor Gareth Roberts (2010-14), contributing editors Stefanie Hardekopf (University of Heidelberg, 2011-14) and Andreas Hutterer (University of Munich, 2011-14) funded by a grant of $609,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (2011-14).

The website of the Griffith Institute: http://www.griffith.ox.ac.uk; open-access publication website for more than 20 digital archives, catalogues and searchable databases, all of which are the product of the team's research and involve international collaboration.

Details of the impact

The Griffith Institute (GI) has a major role propagating information about ancient Egypt in society, directly through its website, Facebook, and Twitter presence, as well as through the facilities it makes available to content-providers in many sectors and diverse social groups, including audiences in contemporary Egypt. The many databases it maintains online, such as Tutankhamun: Anatomy of an Excavation, form primary points of access and interest for non-academic organisations and the general public. With ancient Egypt holding a major position in popular culture in the West and, increasingly, in the Middle East and Asia, much public interest in Tutankhamun is fed by fanciful material available in print and television media and elsewhere on the internet. By contrast, the Institute provides accurate, accessible, and authoritative information about all aspects of ancient Egypt through online and print media, as well as making resources accessible in visual forms including film, television, and exhibitions. All this information is grounded in the research undertaken in the Institute for the TB, Archive, and OEB.

Informing educational activities and teaching
The website is used heavily by a variety of different groups including primary schoolchildren: ancient Egypt is taught as part of Key Stage 2 History. Highly positive feedback from users is frequently received; for example, in 2009 a grandmother wrote to the Institute regarding her grandson's project on Tutankhamun: `I want to thank you again. My grandson put a copy of the e-mails that we sent and your response in the scrapbook. His booklet was the best of the class... His teacher wants to keep it for an example in future classes.' Permission is regularly granted to teachers to use material, such as the famous Harry Burton photographs of the tomb of Tutankhamun. In early 2011, a UK primary school-teacher requested Burton photographs for class teaching, and after the GI staff suggested some additional material, the following response was received [1]: `They have been totally spell bound by this topic and beg me every day for more lessons on Tutankhamun... Following your great idea to include the plans I had a great idea for the pupils to mark out the outline of the tomb on the playground, which will cross over into numeracy... I will now have to check and see if the dimensions of the Canopic Chest and sarcophagus are in Carter's notes.'

As well as at least 100 visits to the Archive each year by academic researchers from all over the world, numerous behind-the-scenes tours are offered to groups of interested public, such as the Danish Egyptological Society, the Society for the Study of Ancient Egypt (Canada), and the Essex Egyptology Group [i] who have a unique chance to view the collections and hear from the Institute's researchers.

Images and diary extracts from the Archive are widely used in print media, including children's books and teaching resources for schools and museums. Permission has been granted for a great variety of materials such as: The Children's Museum of Indianapolis's (USA) request for educational material for school visits (2008); a Brazilian school history book by Pueri Domus Escolas Associadas (2010); and Checkpoint English Stage 8 for Cambridge University Press (2012) [2].

Widening public understanding of Egyptology
The richness of the research materials that the Institute places online have made the GI website one of the world's most heavily consulted Egyptological websites (e.g. 276,479 unique visits in 2012; more in 2013) [ii]. The Institute itself has been the subject of articles in contexts including a July 2010 piece in the Guardian, `Tutankhamun - the secrets of the tomb go online' [iii] and a May 2012 article in the Smithsonian, `Howard Carter: Famous Archaeologist, Not-So-Famous Painter' [iv] publicising its work and collections to wider audiences.

GI images have been used as stills in TV documentaries, including in 2011 Egypt's Lost Cities, the first showing of which was watched by 4.92m people and was the 12th most popular programme on BBC 1 that week [v]. The Archive itself has also been used as a filming location and resource for many documentaries, including Tutankhamun: Cursed Pharaoh and Queen in 2009 for NHK (Japan) and Ultimate Tut, a Blink Films special two-part programme from the PBS series Secrets of the Dead in 2013. The presenter, Egyptologist Chris Naunton, specifically mentions and links to the GI in his blog post discussing the programme [vi].

The Institute's Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/griffithinstitute), launched in January 2012, showcases the depth and diversity of the Archive holdings and offers a point of entry for its research materials. Facebook allows direct public engagement with and discussion of these resources. Thus, a set of postings by the GI in April 2013 of artefact drawings held in the Archive made by Sir Flinders Petrie (1853-1942), one of the founders of modern archaeological practice, resulted in the identification of the objects' current locations in museums following online discussions by members of the public. The GI has then communicated this information to the relevant institutions, who have added the data to their records [vii].

Enabling a better presentation of cultural heritage
Archive data has been central to national and international exhibitions, from Tate Britain's The Lure of the East: British Orientalist Painting (June 2008), and Pharaoh: King of Egypt, a travelling exhibition from the British Museum (Newcastle, Leeds, Birmingham, Glasgow and Bristol, July 2011 to June 2013; touring internationally from 2014), to the use of Tutankhamun photographs in an exhibition at the International Museum of the Arabian Horse (Lexington, USA, 2009) and in a student-led exhibition at the Faculty of Archaeology, Cairo University (April 2012). Since 2008, an exhibition of exact replicas from the tomb of Tutankhamun, Tutankhamun: His Tomb and Treasures, has been a key disseminator of accurate information about the tomb, based on the archive, and has travelled from Zurich to Barcelona, Brno, Brussels, Malmö, Manchester, Seoul, and Berlin. In addition to copies of archive material in the exhibition, many sketches, plans, and detailed notes of the excavator Howard Carter were used in making the replicas. Oliver Rosenwald of Semmel Concerts, organiser of this exhibition, reports: `It would not have been possible to implement this project in a quality-driven way using richly illustrated graphics, films and catalogues without the archived material of the excavator's estate, which has now been made completely available online. This is thanks to the excellent work of the Griffith Institute and the friendly cooperation of the archive management and their employees.' [3]. In 2009, the Institute provided images of original excavation documents and photographs for display in the restored Carter House in Luxor, Egypt, now a visitors' centre [viii].

Providing an accessible source of high quality images and information for various commercial uses
The Archive's use and dissemination in popular books and articles extends beyond Egyptology. For example, various Burton photos are used in the history of board games and woodworking Erwin Glonnegger, Das Spiele-Buch (2nd, ed., Ravensburger Buchverlag Maier 2009; 9783473556540). Sketches of the nineteenth century traveller Edward William Lane were used in Venetia Porter's exhibition catalogue Hajj, Journey to the heart of Islam (British Museum 2012; 9780714111766) [4].

Hundreds of GI images have been used as stills in TV programmes such as Great Continental Railway Journeys (2.21 million viewers, March 2013; BBC), to popular entertainment such as The Supersizers Eat... The Twenties (Silver River Productions for BBC, July 2009; viewed by 2.26 million), and a special feature for the Doctor Who DVD for BBC/2entertain (40,000 copies; Summer 2010). Burton photographs are the basis of a well-selling British Museum replica of the ivory casket from the tomb of Tutankhamun [ix] and a replica Isle of Man coin (2008).

Contributing professional advice and sharing skills
Tours are regularly given to undergraduate and graduate student groups, for example from Reading Continuing Education, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich, and Københavns Universitet [x]. Each year, the Institute hosts academics and curators from the Middle East, Egypt, and Sudan as part of the annual British Museum Curators International Training Programme (ITP) [xi]. Feedback recorded by the British Museum includes: `I enjoyed our visit to the Griffith Institute very much. It has a fantastic collection and its website has proven an indispensable tool in our day-to-day research work at the Egyptian Museum' (Marwa Abdel Razek, ITP 2012); `The trips we went on to Oxford and Cambridge were very helpful in learning about the activities of some institutions there such as the Griffith Institute, which has an excellent collection of old photographs of Arabic cities during the 18th, 19th and early decades of 20th centuries.' (Hayam Ahmed Mohammed, ITP 2009) [5].

The website is consulted by professionals in universities, auction houses, and museums, including the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the world's premier collection of Egyptian antiquities, which relies on the Institute's `Museum Lists' to supplement its cataloguing system. Archive photographs were used in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution to determine the extent of damage sustained when displays in the Egyptian Museum were attacked, and to assist in the restoration of damaged artefacts [xii].

Sources to corroborate the impact

[1] Email comment from School teacher

[2] Email regarding permission to use images from Permissions Clearance Controller, CUP

[3] Statement from Producer, Semmel Concerts

[4] Email regarding permission to use images from Picture researcher, British Museum

[5] Feedback from ITP student

Online evidence sources
[i] http://www.essexegyptology.com/wp-content/uploads/February13-Newsletter.pdf: page 4

[ii] http://www.griffith.ox.ac.uk/gri/12.html

[iii] http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2010/jul/18/tutankhamun-website-howard-carter-tomb

[iv] http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/150841555.html

[v] Viewing figures from BARB: http://www.barb.co.uk/viewing/weekly-top-30, for BBC1 week May30-Jun05 2011.

[vi] http://eesdirector.tumblr.com/post/54877990938/tutankhamun-decoded-ultimate-tut

[vii]https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=468440463226956&set=a.259696264101378.5907 0.242424045828600&type=1&theater

[viii] http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g294205-d1637143-Reviews-Howard_Carter_House-Luxor_Nile_River_Valley.html

[ix] http://www.britishmuseumshoponline.org/tutankhamun-plaque/invt/cmcr38360?ref=preview

[x] http://www.griffith.ox.ac.uk/gri/4proj.html

[xi] http://www.britishmuseum.org/pdf/ITP%20Report%202012.pdf

[xii] http://www.eloquentpeasant.com/2011/01/29/statues-of-tutankhamun-damagedstolen-from- the-egyptian-museum/#10