Award and All Souls fellowship Award and All Souls fellowship

Dr Christina Riggs (AMA) has been awarded £98,000 by the British Academy to conduct research on the official photographs taken during the 1920s excavation of the tomb of Tutankhamun.

In addition, Dr Riggs has been appointed to a Visiting Fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford, where she will carry out research in the Tutankhamun excavation archives, housed in the Griffith Institute at Oxford University. The archives contain around 1,800 glass plate negatives, prints, and photographic albums, which have never been studied as a whole.

Dr Riggs said: “I’m interested in the choices the excavation team made about what to photograph and how to photograph it, because this will help us understand how the photos themselves were used to shape the story of the discovery - which every newspaper around the world wanted to cover at the time.

“These are supposedly neutral images (“record" photographs, as archaeologists call them), but they present the excavation as a European and American endeavour, not an Egyptian one, and they show many of the objects as Western-style works of art. My project asks, how does something we take for granted, like a photograph, actually help determine what we think we know about ancient - and modern - Egypt? After all, there are no ’neutral’ images - that’s one of the first things we teach our students in Art History and World Art Studies here at UEA.”

Dr Riggs will be based in Oxford until the end of March, and the project will lead to a book and a small exhibition, both entitled Photographing Tutankhamun.