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EX LIBRIS: The Vintage Egyptologist

Friday, April 16 @ 5:30 pm6:30 pm

The Providence Athenæum is the home of a unique work of Egyptomania: a massive cabinet designed to hold the elephant folio volumes of the Description de l’Egypte. That multi-volume work was the result of scholars that accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte during his invasion of Egypt in 1798. Napoleon’s savants produced the first scientific drawings of many ancient Egyptian monuments, including entire temples that would be destroyed before other nineteenth century expeditions arrived.

Egyptologist and vintage fashion aficionado Colleen Darnell (@vintage_egyptologist) uses the Athenæum’s own Egyptian cabinet and its former contents to explore works of 19th-century Egyptian revival architecture in the United States.


Dr. Colleen Darnell is an Egyptologist who has published widely in pharaonic history, religion, and literature. Her most recent book, The Ancient Egyptian Netherworld Books (co-authored with her husband, John Darnell), was the first complete English translation of the hieroglyphic texts within the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings. In Imagining the Past: Historical Fiction in New Kingdom Egypt, Dr. Darnell identified four stories that belonged to a genre of historical fiction written by the ancient Egyptians themselves. In 2013, she curated an exhibit at the Peabody Museum of Natural History, "Echoes of Egypt: Conjuring the Land of the Pharaohs," that examined Egyptian revival motifs from antiquity to the present.