The Egypt Exploration Society is the largest crowd-funding organisation in the world dedicated to Egypt’s unique global heritage. Over the past 137 years members of the Society have supported fieldwork at over 150 sites across Egypt and Sudan, financed the publication of hundreds of volumes of scientific research, and helped to coordinate educational training events to secure the future of the discipline.

When Amelia Edwards (left) first founded the Egypt Exploration Fund (EEF, now Society) back in 1882, she recognized the importance of engaging the passion of people interested in and excited by the history of Egypt. The first Committee of the EEF appointed Local Honorary Secretaries around the UK to spread their enthusiasm around their own contacts and raise awareness of the need to protect and preserve Egyptian heritage for future generations.

Over a century later, our mission remains largely unchanged, though we operate in a very different world. We need to work harder than ever to protect Egyptian heritage by supporting it globally through fieldwork as well as in museum and archive collections, while at the same time providing education and training for students – the future of Egypt’s heritage is in their hands.

Shoot forward a century and the Local Honorary Secretary system has been resurrected at a time when the Egypt Exploration Society is facing new challenges – as we undergo a major transformation into a research institution that will continue to be beneficial to Egypt’s unique heritage in the 21st century.

In the beginning…

The Programme was first considered in 2017 and I got straight to work designing a scheme that was both exciting and manageable. ‘Manageable’ – what a boring word!? But as a small office with only four members of staff, we have to consider our capacity. We’re often asked to give talks, visit schools, provide more events etc. and it just isn’t possible. We have to run the charity as well as operate two offices (in London and Cairo). And, if we provide all of this in the UK, what about our overseas supporters – what do they get from it?

I feel that history is a lesson to us all, and there are some things we should know to avoid, but there are other things we should borrow from. The Local Honorary Secretary scheme was something I decided to borrow. When I first discussed with Jo about her leading the Programme (who better, right?!) she told me that

“The EES is more than just a Society, an office, and staff. Of course all of these are necessary, but really it's more of a movement, a community of like-minded individuals committed to the future of Egyptian heritage.

She’s right!

We have to allow our members the opportunity to use their passion to further the goals of the Society because they are the same goals that they believe in too. By giving members the chance to be more actively involved, they stand to gain more from it too.

Now you are the future of Egypt’s heritage!

The founders

We set about organising a pilot-scheme to test whether a Local Ambassador Programme was going to be of interest to members, and whether it was ‘manageable’ (yawn, that word again). I never expected to gain new members or donations from the pilot-scheme, but hoped that we would get a better understanding of what was required. Ness, Ildi, and Jo herself, set to work in Yorkshire, Bristol, and the south-west (though Ness was travelling the world at one point telling people of the EES!) and the results were phenomenal. Not only did we gain new members, our enquiries increased, numbers signing up to our e-newsletter increased, and we were actively running events or lectures outside of London regularly for the first time ever! An added benefit that I had also not expected, was that the passion and excitement of the three Ambassadors was infectious. Every time I emailed or spoke with them on the phone, it was a reminder of the great mission of the Society and the joy that Egyptology brings to us all. The knowledge that spreading the word of the Society is the same as spreading word of Egyptian heritage was both reassuring and inspiring. It restored my belief in UK Egyptology and the relevance of the Society to the future of Egyptian heritage.

Margaret Mountford (Chairman of the EES) and Jo at the Barnsley study day on 10th March 2018

We have lift off!

With these great results, the Board of Trustees were naturally very happy to allow a launch of the Programme across the UK in summer 2018. We now have ten Local Ambassadors spread across the country (though there was notably little interest in the south-east – perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised…though disappointed none-the-less). It is great to see and hear of the many backgrounds you have and the journeys that have brought you to Egypt and the Society.

Working alongside Ambassadors, particularly Ildi, has already generated some great online resources (above) which you can use to plan your activities and spread the word among different groups. We’ve designed our very own range of EES Egyptian board games, colouring sheets, hieroglyph guides, and exploration maps. There is also a presentation that you can download and use, or even add your own research to. We have sponsor forms and poster templates ready for you to start organising your own events or even do some fundraising of your own.

The Programme is full of opportunity and is open to what involvement you want to put in. What we have found is that the more you put in, the more you gain yourself.

What’s next?

Left: Current spread of EES representatives and Local Ambassadors in the UK.

In September 2018, thanks to the ongoing success of the Local Ambassador Programme, the Board of Trustees approved a second initiative: the Young Explorers’ Club. The Club – though not officially announced yet – will be the first of its kind for Egyptology. Young Explorers’ will receive 4 quarterly magazines each year filled with feature articles, collection/exhibition/book reviews, posters, activities, and interviews. They will also get a birthday card and a badge for their enrolment. It will cost just £25 per child per year and will be complimented by a website for teachers and parents/guardians with educational resources and activities. The Club will provide marketing space for museums to talk about their current exhibitions, encouraging parents to take children for their school holidays as well as prize giveaways from publishers and space for archaeologists and Egyptologists to give early years career advice and anecdotes.

For years I have been asked to do things for children and, unfortunately, we just don’t have the internal capacity, premises, or training to run events for them. This Club allows us to reach children through schools, clubs, museums, and you our Local Ambassadors, to engage them with educational and (importantly) accessible information. In the future, we can explore running workshops and events with museums and organisations with the correct infrastructure in the knowledge that we have a scheme dedicated to children interested in Egyptian history.

I don’t know about you, but I wish I was young enough to be a Young Explorer! The Club will launch with its first issue in spring 2019 and as Local Ambassadors you will receive packs that you can distribute to organisations and market the Club.

Our Archive Appeal this year has proven very successful and we are over 50% (at the time of writing) toward reaching our goal. Next year, we want to aim bigger and bolder in our fundraising. We’ll need your help – so let me know if you have any thoughts. One plan I have (and I would appreciate your thoughts) is a ‘Hike for heritage’ in order to raise essential funds for the rehousing of the Society’s collections and to start a Research and Development Fund for our charitable activities. Sponsor forms are ready and I am all geared up for a 20 mile hike (shorter walks are possible) to raise the awareness of supporting Egypt’s past!

I look forward to working with each and every one of you in the Local Ambassador Programme and to seeing what you do. It is a great honour to work with a group so committed to Egyptian heritage and the furtherance of work in the discipline!