Founded in 1948, the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) is a private, nonprofit membership organization comprised of educational and cultural institutions, professional scholars and private individuals. ARCE's mission is to support research on all aspects of Egyptian history and culture, foster a broader knowledge of Egypt among the general public, and strengthen American-Egyptian cultural ties.
ARCE was formally established in Boston on May 14, 1948, at a meeting presided over by Harvard’s Edward W. Forbes and Archaeological Institute of America President Sterling Dow. It was attended by some of the era’s most distinguished Egyptological scholars and institutional leaders. This meeting was the culmination of a growing sense, in the years immediately following World War II, of a great need to establish an official “presence” for North American scholars in Egypt. During the early part of the 20th century, leading American archaeological institutions had conducted major excavations in Egypt, but there was no central office in Cairo serving these institutions in their fieldwork or associated research.
ARCE was formally incorporated under the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1950, and the Cairo Center was opened in 1951, using temporary space in a small office within the U.S. Office of Information and Educational Exchange.
The founding members of ARCE understood Americans, in the postwar era, needed to gain greater knowledge of the Arab world, of which Cairo was the cultural center, so the Center’s scope soon broadened to cover the study of medieval and modern Egypt as well. At the 1957 annual meeting, Edward Forbes put it thus:
The trustees of the Center believe that an institution such as the Center, entirely divorced from politics or sectarianism and devoted solely to scholarly aims, is one of the best means of promoting scholarship at home and adding to American prestige abroad; they also believe that it can be an important factor in bringing about a better understanding of the United States in the Middle East, and as such, can be an instrument of peace.
Gradually, the Cairo Center began to offer more services to its members and other interested parties, such as photographing significant monuments, helping visiting members to find accommodations, and hosting a variety of topical lectures. The 1950s saw considerable political upheaval in Egypt with the 1952 revolution and the 1956 Suez War, but, except for a short time in 1956, the ARCE director remained in Cairo.
As the 1950s gave way to the 1960s, ARCE began to develop as a formal institution. Encouraged and aided by the U.S. Department of State, in 1962 ARCE entered into an expanded and more structured consortium and was charged with managing and distributing over $500,000 yearly in Public Law 480 (Food for Peace) funds. At this time, ARCE also received a “note of recognition” from the Egyptian government, though its scope was limited to “activities in the field of antiquities” by the Ministry of Culture and National Guidance. This scope was later expanded to include research from ancient times to the present.
Today, ARCE serves the academic community by providing critical logistical support to expeditions and research projects of American academic and cultural institutions. It provides a permanent base in Cairo for scholars studying Egypt from prehistory to the present day. More than a dozen archaeological teams sponsored by leading American universities are assisted annually by our Cairo Center, which also houses a library offering scholars 25,000 volumes on all periods of Egyptian history.
Additionally, ARCE offers training programs largely for the benefit of Egyptian colleagues in field archaeology, conservation techniques, salvage archaeology, site management, and museum registrar practices. ARCE has constructed a conservation facility for the use of our colleagues at the MOA. This is the first-ever sole-purpose conservation facility to be constructed on-site in the Luxor complex and is designed to blend with its environment.
On the ground, ARCE has directly participated in the conservation of the nearly lost Roman frescos in the Luxor Temple, conservation of our first Medieval Mosque in Cairo (with the assistance of the Aga Khan Foundation), monitoring and conservation work on the East Bank at Luxor centered on the Karnak, Mut, and Luxor temple complexes (with assistance from the MSA, the Franco-Egyptian Center, the Brooklyn Museum Mut Expedition, the Johns Hopkins Expedition, and Chicago House).
From its inception in 1948 to today, ARCE has been steadfast in its belief in the value of cross-cultural exchange between Egypt and the United States and the shared objectives of promoting research into Egypt’s rich history and the conservation of all antiquities and historic sites.