College of Communication and Fine Arts Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology
History of the Institute

The city of Memphis, Tennessee (USA) has always had a special connection to its ancient namesake, Memphis, Egypt. The American city was founded in 1819 by General (later President) Andrew Jackson, General James Winchester and Judge John Overton. Based on its strategic position at the head of the Delta of the Mississippi River (sometimes called the "American Nile"), the city was named after the ancient capital of Egypt which was located at the head of the Nile River Delta.

The citizens of Memphis have maintained their connection with ancient Egypt through the years. In 1917 Robert Galloway, chairman of the Memphis Park Commission, presented two large quartzite blocks to the city of Memphis. These blocks, originally part of a palace in ancient Memphis, are decorated with figures and inscriptions of the 26th Dynasty (ca. 550 B.C.E.) Pharaoh Amasis. More recently, the city of Memphis built its own pyramid, a huge structure of steel and glass that dominates the downtown skyline.

In the 1970s, a generous donation from Mr. E.H. Little, a prominent Memphis businessman, made possible the acquisition of forty-four Egyptian artifacts, ranging in date from 3600 B.C.E. to the seventh century C.E., selected by University of Memphis faculty from the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. These antiquities became the core of the University's permanent collection of Egyptian artifacts. This was followed nearly a decade later by the city of Memphis's highly successful exhibition, Ramesses the Great, and the founding of the University's Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology.

Established in 1984 with a pledge of significant financial support from the Memphis Business Community under the leadership of Union Planters Bank (now Regions Bank), the Institute of Egyptian Art & Archaeology, (IEAA), was designated a Tennessee Center of Excellence in 1985. The IEAA is a component of the Department of Art, a unit of the College of Communication and Fine Arts of the University of Memphis.

Timeline for the Institute of Egyptian Art & Archaeology

  • 1975
    A collection of 44 works of ancient Egyptian art from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is acquired by the University through the generosity of E. H. Little
  • 1983
    First installation of the ancient Egyptian collection occurs
    Exhibition, A Divine Tour of Egypt, at the University Art Museum (curated by Dr. Rita E. Freed; exhibition catalogue by Dr. Freed)
  • 1984
    Union Planters Bank (now Regions Bank) leads the Memphis business community in an endowment pledge drive for the IEAA
  • 1985
    IEAA officially established on October 15th
    Tennessee Board of Regents designates the IEAA a Tennessee Center of Excellence
    Mrs. Jehan Sadat, widow of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, is guest speaker at the inaugural ceremony
  • 1987
    The first Wonders™ exhibition, Ramesses the Great (curated by Dr. Rita E. Freed; exhibition catalogue by Dr. Freed), draws over 675,000 visitors
  • 1992
    The position of Director of the Center of Excellence is combined with that of the Director of the Institute of Egyptian Art & Archaeology.
  • 1993
    IEAA initiates the Great Hypostyle Hall Project at Karnak, Egypt (project director the late Dr. William Murnane)
  • 1994
    Tennessee Board of Regents approves proposal for Master's Degree Program in Art History with Concentration in Egyptian Art and Archaeology (submitted by Dr. Lorelei H. Corcoran)
  • 1995
    IEAA initiates sponsorship of the Amenmesse Project (KV 10), in the Valley of the Kings (project director Dr. Otto Schaden)
  • 1996
    Exhibition, Reading, Writing and Hieroglyphs: Text and Image in Ancient Egypt at the University Art Museum (curated by Dr. Lorelei H. Corcoran)
    IEAA web site launched
  • 1999
    Exhibition, Africa's Egypt at the Memphis Pink Palace Museum (curated by Dr. Lorelei H. Corcoran), attracts over 85,000 visitors
  • 2001
    Exhibition, Gods of Ancient Memphis at the Art Museum of the University of Memphis (co-curated by Dr. Stephen Harvey and Dr. Melinda Hartwig; exhibition catalogue by Drs. Harvey and Hartwig)
  • 2003
    Dr. Lorelei H. Corcoran initiates co-operative project with the Italian Archaeological Mission to Luxor, Tomb of Harwa (project director Dr. Francesco Tiradritti; Hohenberg Chair of Excellence in Art History, University of Memphis, 2004-2005)
  • 2005
    IEAA offices moved to 201 Jones Hall
  • 2005
    Exhibition, That You May Behold the Moon: The Photography of Sue Lazon
  • 2006
    Discovery of tomb 63 in the Valley of the Kings
  • 2010
    New display cases for IEAA mummies and coffins installed. This made possible by generous support of The Knapp Foundation (Memphis, TN), Cope Plastics - Memphis and Lucite International.
  • 2011
    New wall display unit and major reinstallation of Egyptian Gallery. This made possible by generous support of The Knapp Foundation (Memphis, TN), Lucite International and anonymous donors.
  • 2012
    Cast of colossal statue of Ramesses II moved from downtown to campus of the University of Memphis.

Institute of Egyptian Art & Archaeology 
315 Art and Communication Bldg.
The University of Memphis
Memphis, TN 38152-3140

Phone: (901) 678-2555
FAX: (901) 678-2735

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Last Updated: 6/18/12