Last month, the Echoes of Egypt exhibition opened at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem to mark the 30th anniversary of the Israel-Egypt Peace Agreement. A remarkable array of photographs and prints, the exhibition includes items from a photography collection belonging to Dan Kyram, who started scouring the world for pictorial historic documents of Palestine and Egypt over 30 years ago. Also, there are works by leading painters and cartographers of great monuments and daily life from the mid-16th century to the late-19th century.
Kyram, whose private collection includes photographs from the 1850s up to the 1930s, feels it only natural for a museum in Israel to display historic images from Egypt. The photographers were British, French and Egyptians who returned to the Middle East and took pictures all around the area.
The earliest photograph in Echoes was taken by the English photographer Francis Frith, depicting the Sphinx in 1857 - only 18 years after the camera was invented. Logistically speaking this meant very heavy cameras, of which Frith travelled with three. Also, the glass plates had to be newly prepared for each shot and developed on the spot.
Amanda Weiss, managing director of the Bible Lands Museum, feels there is added educational and sociopolitical value to an arts exhibition, beyond its pure visual properties. "I think culture is the thing we often forget about as being something important," she says. "We talk about politics and disagreements. I believe culture is the key to building everything, whether it is peace agreements or educating our children toward the goal of a better society. Without culture, we don't have a future. I see this exhibition not as a political statement but as a cultural statement. The whole purpose of this museum is to increase awareness of the cultures around us, and to help people understand what our history is. If we don't understand our history, we can't build a better future."
The Echoes of Egypt exhibition will run at least until the summer at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem - Museum Row, 25 Granot St., (02) 561-1066. For more information visit blmj.org