I am honoured to have been elected Chair of the Board of Trustees – in my thirty-fifth year of membership of the Society. During those years, I have been a part of the Society under many different guises, sometimes simultaneously: amateur enthusiast; undergraduate student; postgraduate student; museum worker; adult education tutor; university teacher; independent researcher; local Egyptological society member; tour leader. As such, I am well aware of the diversity of membership that is one of the Society’s greatest strengths: from the moment of its foundation, its key role has been as a nexus between the world of the amateur and the professional, creating a community in which knowledge of ancient Egypt is not only extended, but also disseminated to the widest possible degree.
Through their subscriptions and donations, our members provide the resources with which the Society funds surveys, excavations, epigraphy and archival work, and in exchange they receive the fruits of those activities, through events and publications (which are offered to members at a substantial discount), and the knowledge that their contribution has been put towards research that may change our very understanding of aspects of the culture and history of Egypt. While in the Chair, my personal objective is to do all I can to nurture and extend this relationship through the involvement of as many members of the Society as possible in its activities, and I want to see the Board of Trustees steer the Society forward in a way that enjoys the broadest possible support from the membership. As such, I would encourage anyone who believes they could contribute to this to consider putting their name forward as a potential Trustee.
This has become all the more crucial since the withdrawal of British Academy funding which has meant that our activities have once more become fundamentally dependent on members’ contributions – as they were from the of the time of the Society’s foundation in 1882 to its first receipt of government monies soon after World War II. The fifty years of state funding meant, on one hand, that we could work more widely, extensively and on a longer-term basis than had generally been the case before; but on the other, the direct link between members and outputs was at best diluted or at worst all but lost. In the brave new post-British Academy world, that link has been very much restored, and I am very keen that the existing initiatives such as the Excavation Fund and specific project-focussed fund-raising, made possible for example through the model of the Amelia Edwards Projects, are continued and expanded. For me, the key to our future success is a shared ownership of our objectives by all members – whether ‘amateur’, ‘professional’, or something in between – to ensure that the Society, now well into its second century, continues to lead British fieldwork in Egypt.
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