November 19: Institut d’Égypte
2012/11/19 § 2 Comments
During this month in 1799 the Institut d’Égypte made a plan to collect and publish scholarly work in a journal, the Description de l’Egypte.
The Institut had been formed the year before, as part of Napoleon’s grander efforts in Egypt. Organized like a proper French academie, it was populated by serious scholars divided into departments that focused on mathematics, natural history, political economy, literature and arts–the last being Denon’s group. The organization of a publication would spread the findings of the institute to a broader world from its position in the “orient.”
The Institut changed names and locations as the fortunes of its kingly patrons rose and fell, finally coming to rest in Cairo in 1880. The collection swelled to hold over 200,000 historic texts and thousands of artifacts. While it served scholars from around the world, it was also (unusually for an institute of this caliber) open to the public, centrally located in a fine Neo-Classical building near Tahrir Square.
On December 11, 2011 the Institut was caught in the crossfire (literally) of political revolution that spilled out of Tahrir Square, caught fire, and was devastated. An original series of Denon’s great work was just part of the loss of the day, as the artifacts and scholarship collected across two centuries, and encompassing developments that stretched the millennia, literally went up in smoke.
Image: (from this source)