Giza Archaeological Expedition Archive

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Giza: Menkaure Pyramid Complex, 1907. Image and data from: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Founded in 1870, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston houses an encyclopedic collection of 450,000 objects from around the world and across the ages. The museum's holdings in Egyptian art are particularly strong, comprising nearly 45,000 works ranging from 4000 B.C. — 500 A.D. A majority of the works in the collection derive from archeological excavations sponsored by the museum. The longest-running of these took place at the Giza Necropolis, a site that dates from c. 2500 B.C. and encompasses thousands of tombs, temples, and other monuments. Undertaken jointly with Harvard University, this expedition took place from 1902-1947, uncovering thousands of objects that would later be accessioned by the museum. Over the years, the “Harvard-MFA Expedition” also produced a massive documentary archive, consisting of excavation photographs, diaries, object registers, maps, plans, books, etc. The bulk of this archive is housed in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

In 2000, with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the museum embarked on a project to preserve, digitize, and distribute the archive online. The Giza Archives Project web site is a product of this initial effort. Over time, with the possible addition of excavation archives from other expeditions and institutions, the museum hopes to make the site a central repository for the archaeological history of Giza. In the meantime, the museum has also contributed digital files for the archive's 22,000 black-and-white excavation photographs to the Artstor Digital Library. These images were produced by digitizing the original glass plate negatives produced during the “Harvard-MFA Expedition,” from 1902-1942. They provide visual documentation of the Giza pyramids, workers at dig sites, interiors of excavated monuments, objects and human remains in their original find spots, individual finds and artifacts, and Egyptians in modern-day Giza and Cairo.