The EES Archives Explored in London

EES - Ann in the lecture/meeting room

Heritage Key loves the tales woven by the archives of the Egypt Exploration Society, as mentioned at their fundraising afternoon earlier this month. So much were we interested in the project, which aims to preserve and digitise the society’s rich recorded history, that we decided to take a look for ourselves. Spread over three separate mews in a backstreet of central London, the only indicator you’ve reached EES HQ is a tiny plaque on the door and some obscured old relics in the window. Yet the minimal decoration and creeping vines embody an eccentricity of EES’ earliest explorers, looking more like an artist’s studio than an archaeological base.

EES - Heritage Key gets a tour through the archives

After meeting deputy director Chris Naunton, Heritage Key is shown round the EES’ modest working space, comprising an office, lecture room, library, and, of course, space for the archives. Which are vast: they seem to take up almost every shelf in the three buildings. The library is as comprehensive as it is labyrinthine: Chris reckons it must be one of the best Egyptology collections in Europe. The library’s greatest asset may turn out to be its downfall unless funding arrives soon, though: its expanding volume means work is needed on the archives fast to free up more room. The money to carry out such vital work has dried up since, much to the society’s dismay, the British Academy controversially withdrew funding three years ago as they demanded the EES branch out beyond Dynastic Egypt’s huge history. And Chris admits the society has struggled to find the cash to keep on their excellent work.

Above the library’s books stand photos of one of the society’s biggest benefactors, Ricardo Caminos. The Argentine was one of Egypt’s most prolific experts, his work during the Nubian rescue campaign of the 1960s recording hundreds of ancient inscriptions since lost forever thanks to the Aswan Dam. Caminos lived in one of the three mews, evident in its still-present bedroom and kitchen, which the EES bought following his death in 1992.

Heritage in Danger

J D S Pendlebury

Chris shows us some of the notebooks, photographs and negatives from the EES Lucy Gura archives. Each one is fascinating, and many show places now lost to the aforementioned Aswan works. The fundraiser of a fortnight ago was a success, Chris says, but much more money is needed to secure these precious items’ futures. Though much is labelled and filed, half have no archive-standard wallets – and many glass negatives, though digitised, are unmovable thanks to their precarious situation. Thanks to a lack of subsidiaries the society is looking at a funding deficit, and it needs your help.

Heritage Key leaves determined to help Chris, director Patricia Spencer and their cause. It would be a tragedy if the EES’ archives were lost forever; they’re the best links we have to the history of Egyptology. Work by Petrie, Carter, Naville and many more are at risk, and we want to help. We’ll be searching the archives soon, and asking which treasures you want us to unlock for the EES. If you’ve got any ideas, leave them in the comments box below, or via our contact page, and we’ll get back to you right away. The archives are more than just pretty pictures – they’re a vital step back to the glorious age of discovery which saw most of Egypt‘s incredible treasures surface for the first time in thousands of years. Get involved – and help Heritage Key unlock the wonders!

Also, look out for an exclusive video with Stephen Quirke of the Petrie Museum, as he takes us on a tour of the museum’s magnificent records – Coming soon!

Support the Lucy Gura Archive Fund

It’s a worthy cause, and one vital to the study and celebration of Egyptology. If we lose the EES’ archives, along with other prominent archives in Oxford, Geneva and further afield, we risk turning the light off on the Era of Discovery.If you wish to make a much-needed donation to the Lucy Gura archive, just visit the EES’ support page, follow the link to make ‘a donation’, then select ‘The Lucy Gura Archive Fund. You money will be saving some of Egyptology’s greatest records.