Historical Revival Done Right: What the UK Could Learn From Egypt | Nathan Wilson
For a lot of Conservative writers and thinkers, the topic of tradition and culture is a central one, for not just their politics but their own lives. While much criticism has been laid upon the European Continent for its trends towards how it views its own history, in contrast the nation of Egypt has sought to seek historical and cultural revival through the creation of a brand-new national museum. A museum that aims to become both a symbol of Egypt’s past and future.
With the ever-increasing debates around architecture and the innate culturally zeitgeist that makes up such topics, Egypt has aimed to reignite itself with its own history. Although in the works since 2002, “on 12th March 2012, a lavish ceremony was held at the site of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) for the beginning of the construction of the Museum”, according to the JIPA. Alongside this, according to the same source the “GEM will emerge as one of the world’s largest museum with 81,000 square meters of the total floor area and 38,000 square meters of the exhibition area”.
What makes this project so special, is that it is the first fully large-scale project after the Egyptian Revolution in 2011. However, between 2011- 2014, following the revolution the project was placed on hold. Subsequently, after the stabilisation of the government in 2014, the project continued back on course. This saw renewed construction with the help of foreign loans as the Egyptian tourism industry had faced downturns, throughout its own periods of political instability.
While the GEM aimed to fully open to the public in late 2020, however due to the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic this plan had to be delayed until late 2021. From which, according to the Grand Egyptian Museum’s information website, the GEM “will be the largest archaeological museum complex in the world and host to more than 100,000 artifacts”. It is the Egyptian Governments hope that this will be the first time ever that King Tutankhamun entire treasure collection will be on display, this will be alongside “artifacts from pre-historic times through Egypt’s many thousands years of pharaonic civilization through the [comparatively] more modern ancient Greek and Roman periods of Egyptian history”. It remains unclear if the GEM will open late this year, but it is hoped that upon its launching will be one of the grandest events in modern Egypt’s history and possibly within recent memory within the world of museums.
It is hoped by the Egyptian government that such an investment will last a lifetime and become a permanent symbol of the nation’s history as well as its strong future. From which, Egypt can witness its own historical revival of itself into the modern era. This is something that will last for beyond the lives of its creators and will be something the great grandchildren of those original planners can take pride and honour within.
For many traditional thinkers and viewers, museums offer something that is rather aloof within the modern world. This being a place of wonder and of collective fascination, with both foreign and domestic history and culture. If we take another case, libraries for example have often been seen as not merely a symbol of a place of knowledge but rather a religious and ancient/ mystic place.
Libraries having thought to have evolved from Judeo-Christian temples and other religious institutions for maintaining vast collections of written texts, not to mention Ancient Greece or Rome. It is no wonder that places like museums have come to symbolise the innate cultural history of nation within its four walls, whether that be Art, Ancient or Natural History.
As such, the topic of historical revival has never not been more important as it is right now. Much has been made of how Conservatives have of recent been lacking in the department of conserving things. It must be of more benefit to instead reignite the fire within a nation and its history, than rather watch it slowly ebb away. The issue of planting trees that you know you will never sit under, is that you need to make sure the tree truly remains there to begin with.
The genesis of creating and historically appreciate the past has been and always will remain firmly with the present, and historical revival is no different. Although, currently the Egyptians have a much bigger appreciation (both metaphorically and literally) than most Western nations.
The Grand Egyptian Museum represents such things, it is not just a symbol of days gone by and Ancient Egypt, it’s a national icon of the depth of the Egyptian character and soul, even through the worst of political history has had to offer recently.
The appreciate of such things remains of the utmost importance for any political party and its citizenry. If the Conservatives want to really invoke a true sense of the United Kingdom, it could look at Egypt with the GEM.
What the UK could learn from Egypt, is that it can still fully appreciate and modernise its own history, not just for the ever-temporary present but for countless generations here after. What the UK lacks currently is a sense of self within its own nation state, a sense of national collective pride, whether that be in its arts or culturally history. As such, nations like Egypt and its grand designs set the tone for how things can be made amazing and still speak to the nation it aims to represent.
It remains doubtless if architectural things and historical understanding of nation within itself is understood by the present ruling party in the UK, but what is for certain is that the Conservatives need to quickly recognise the spiritual importance of what is going on and seek to revive it historically.
Overall, this shows that the placement of new grand designs could be very important for a nation both new and old, something that Conservatives should aim to speak too and walk towards, otherwise they risk losing their very name and title.