Managing the Musée Champollion and The Pitt Rivers Museum.

Championing Champollion

A new permanent museum devoted to the origins of Egyptology is set to open in early 2021 in the Champollion family home in Vif, Isère, France. Both Jean-François Champollion, who famously deciphered ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs in the early 19th century, and his elder brother Jacques Joseph Champollion-Figeac, also a scholar, frequently stayed at the house. Jean-Pierre Barbier, President of the Department of Isère, said, ‘Isère is a place where talent abounds and whose past has been graced by so many illustrious men, above all in the 19th century. As such, we wanted to restore the Champollion brothers to their rightful historical prominence by creating, in their beautiful family home in Vif, a museum dedicated to their life and works.’ With exhibits including Jean-François’s annotated prints of the Rosetta Stone, the Musée Champollion’s aim is to explore the research of both brothers, their relationship, and their contributions to that new field of study – Egyptology.

Colonialism and collections

The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford reopened in September with some important changes to their displays, put in place after a three-year review of ‘Displays and Programming from an Ethical Perspective’. The history of the museum, which holds some 500,000 objects, is linked to British imperial expansion and colonial ambitions to collect objects from across the world, often by violent methods. Newly installed interpretation sets out to explore how the museum formed its vast and varied collections, and explain the problems with some of the historic case labels. Another change is that, over the summer, well-known human remains – including South American tsantsas (‘shrunken heads’) – were removed from display. The Pitt Rivers is now working to speak with descendant communities and establish how best to care for this complex material in their collections.