Industrial Heritage in Egypt PhD – ‘results on the ground’

Written by Shreen Amin (Egypt, ITP 2016)

I am writing today to share with you my latest works in Egypt. I am working now to increase awareness of the importance of industrial history in understanding heritage based around my PhD investigating the industrial heritage of Egypt.

Industrial heritage exists in all phases of human development. It consists of the remains of the industrial culture which is of historical, technological, social, architectural and scientific value. This kind of heritage is a topical issue because of the problematic issue of the rapid loss of industrial memory. Collections of industrial heritage tools that transmit specific products and methods are often incomplete and poorly documented. Moreover, there is an unfavorable feeling towards ‘industrial activity’ which was often painful and not very rewarding. A challenge is posed to museums in interpreting such a kind of heritage in exhibiting, animating and creating the context.

Recently the Egyptian Museum organised a temporary exhibition highlighting the Industrial Heritage in Egypt. Great thanks to the Egyptian Museum’s new Director Dr Ali Abdel Haliem, who responded to the theme of my PhD which investigates The Interpretation Strategies of Industrial Heritage in the Museums of Egypt.  And great thanks too to the Egyptian Museum temporary exhibitions department who worked very hard to display the machines in an formative way, and to the Director of the department, Ms Asmaa Ahmed, who supported the idea of displaying historical machines in an archaeological museum.

The exhibition highlights a collection of machines that bear witness to Egypt’s industrial heritage – a collection of about 19 objects. The collection includes two early 20th century telephones, in wood and metal, which were formerly in the office of the museum general director and the museum’s switchboard. The Royal Typewriter with glass panels on each side which was used in the paper works of the museum in the early 20th century. The model on display dates to 1914. These sit alongside names of letters, templates for writing and printing, and archival cards dating back to the beginning of the 20th century from the Egyptian Museum Library and Archives Department.

Did you know that the Bulaq Press was the first Egyptian printing press and it is the first governmental printing press and the first official governmental printing press ever established in Egypt?

The exhibition also includes a collection of historical clocks from the office of the General Director of the Egyptian Museum and have been used since the beginning of the 20th century.  French clock-making came to light in the 17th century, when highly ornamented clocks covered in gilt bronze, known as ormolu (a gold-coloured alloy of copper, zinc, and tin) were produced to keep up with the new standards of luxury set by King Louis XIV in his palace in Versailles, France.

The Egyptian Museum organised a lecture on Wednesday 24th May 2023, entitled Industrial Heritage in Egypt, and was followed by a detailed explanation of the temporary exhibition of the Industrial Heritage Museum in the Egyptian Museum. I had the honour to present this lecture. We also organised a series of tour programmes for children to highlight the exhibition.

I had the honour to participate in organising a workshop highlighting the industrial heritage in Egypt as a member of UNESCO Chair in heritage education at Helwan University.  Great thanks to Prof Dr Rasha Motaeh, the representative of the UNESCO Chair in heritage education at Helwan University and director of CULTHEED Cultural Heritage Training and Education center ‘Cult-HeEd’ – Helwan University, for supporting the idea. The workshop was in cooperation with the Italian Archaeological Center in Cairo.  I had the honour to present a paper titled: Industrial Heritage and Cultural Identity – a case study on how to safeguard Industrial heritage via complementary exhibitions and events in Egypt at the International Italian Egyptian Workshop on Industrial Heritage (IWIH) 2023 organized by the Italian Archaeological Center Cairo 13-14 June 2023            and Cult-HeEd”- Helwan University.  And I also participated in the international conference on Mining, Quarries and Technology organised by the Italian Archaeological Center Cairo 11-13 June 2023.

Now, I am presenting lectures highlighting heritage management and industrial heritage conservation as a visiting professor at Helwan University Egypt Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management Heritage and Museums Department (B.A Heritage and Museums Studies Program Semester: 3rd Semester Title: Heritage Management Code: HMS 241- Semester: 2nd Semester Title: History of Art 1 Code: HMS 105) from 2021-2023

I am also a guest lecturer at Helwan University Egypt, Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management Heritage and Museums Department (MA and PhD in Heritage and Museums Studies Programme)

Great thanks to Claire and ITP community who always support and encourage us to move forward.

Warmest wishes from Egypt, Shreen

Shreen Amin is a Museologist / Heritage Professional at the Egyptian Museum, Cairo

Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities Egypt

And a Postdoctoral Researcher at Helwan University Cairo.