I was recently offered the opportunity to explore the collection of the Brooklyn Museum Libraries and Archives and write about it. Delighted, I approached the collection and said, “Where do I start?” This was a surprisingly difficult question; there was just so much to see! Overwhelmed, I sat down and thought about what the library was all about. I’ve learned that the main purpose of a museum’s library is to support its collection. So I was not surprised to discover that The Wilbour Library of Egyptology (a section of the Brooklyn Museum’s Libraries and Archives) is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world, as the Museum’s Egyptology collection is one of the largest and finest in the world. The Museum has been acquiring Egyptian art since the turn of the twentieth century and acquired a large collection assembled by Charles Edwin Wilbour, whose personal library also formed the core of The Wilbour Library. After learning this, I decided that The Wilbour Library was the place to begin. However, with close to 50,000 volumes, this did not make the task any less daunting.
The Brooklyn Museum Libraries held an event on a recent First Saturday featuring splendid 19th century books written at the dawn of the rediscovery of ancient Egypt, spread out on the tables in the reading room. Dr. John M. Lundquist, adjunct professor of Religious Studies at Pace University, presented a primer on ancient Egyptian gods and their influence on the burial rituals of mortals, giving voice to the exhibit downstairs, To Live Forever. Digital images of illustrations on pages from the very books before us were shown on the screen in Dr. Lundquist's presentation.