Dear Members and Friends,

In early April I wrote to update you all on the way we hoped to keep the Society running during the lockdown. Now, at a time when many of the measures put in place by governments in the UK are being relaxed, I want to report back on the work done by our staff over the past three difficult months. But I also want to look forward and let you know about the scale of the challenges still facing us.

The most obvious change in our activities during the lockdown has been the provision of an impressive range of live online lectures on subjects as varied as ‘Rescuing the Mamluk Minbars of Cairo’, ‘Egypt's Dispersed Heritage’, ‘Petrie’s excavations at Hawara’ and ‘the Museum of Lies’. Thanks to the organisational skills of Carl, our Director, and Stephanie, our Collections Manager, and the generosity of our expert lecturers, we have mounted more than 40 lectures via Zoom so far (more to come), free to Members and, as an introduction to the Society’s work, freely available to guests too. The results have been truly impressive. By late June we had had total attendances of almost six and a half thousand watching and listening live from more than 30 countries and from every continent (except Antarctica – but it would be possible!). This has been a significant step in broadening access to Egyptology around the world. The feedback has been overwhelming, resulting in more new applications for membership than for many years past. So I want to thank again all those contributing to the lecture series and to confirm that we will look for ways of being able to continue this service to Members in the future.

As well as our public-facing activities, staff have been working remotely but full-time, answering and processing enquiries, orders, publication reproduction requests, and more. Despite disruptions caused by the lockdown our JEA editorial team have succeeded in completing work on both JEA105.1 and 105.2. The former should already have reached subscribers, and the latter is in the post shortly. Thanks to measures set in place over recent years, the Society has shown real resilience during this difficult time; we have not needed to furlough staff, and we’ve continued to provide all our usual services (and more) to supporters around the world. But of course we still have much to do. 

When I wrote to you in April I confirmed that the Society was to remain at its Doughty Mews office in London, but that there were major problems to resolve there because of a structural threat to the building from neighbouring trees, as well as the long term need to modernise the premises to improve facilities for Members and working conditions for our staff.

The current EES library which needs substantial redevelopment to make it safe for the collections, staff, members, and researchers

The lockdown has inevitably delayed progress in solving these problems, with professional advisors unable to attend the premises. However, we have begun the legal process of requiring our neighbours to remove two trees which are pushing against the rear wall of the library building, and in the last few days a structural engineer has carried out a detailed assessment of the problems. While we hope to resolve the issues as soon as possible, we need to be realistic that – with the involvement of solicitors, surveyors and planners – progress may be slow. And until we can resolve the threat from the trees we cannot sensibly begin to modernise the property itself. That task alone will be costly and will have to be the subject of a future fundraising effort.

I want to be completely frank with all our Members and supporters about the scale of the financial challenges even before we begin work on Doughty Mews. The Trustees have a legal duty to ensure that the EES is a “going concern” able to meet its financial commitments in the short and medium term. The fact is that for some years now, despite reducing our staff numbers, the Society has been eating into its reserves year by year. That cannot continue indefinitely. At the moment we spend around £80,000 more each year than we take in from subscriptions, donations, sales, and ancillary activities. Occasional substantial legacies have helped us enormously. But if current trends continue we would exhaust our reserves within the next two to three years. Long before we reach that point, and in order to ensure we could meet our commitments to staff and creditors, we would need to declare that the EES was no longer a going concern in its current form. We should have to reduce our operation to become a small, grant giving charity. That would be a tragedy for our members, of course for our staff, and for the cause that the Society has worked towards over the past one hundred and forty years.

With much of the world still in the grip of the pandemic it is hardly surprising that governments as well as individuals may not currently have heritage at the top of their priorities. Tourism to Egypt, which had been slowly recovering in recent years and on which countless thousands of people in Cairo, Luxor, Aswan and elsewhere depend, has pretty much ceased and unemployment has soared. At times of economic crisis, heritage sites and artefacts are highly vulnerable. There could hardly be a more important time for us to play our part in recording, understanding and sharing knowledge of the immense cultural contribution that Egypt has made to the history of our world’s civilisation. We must help keep the scholarship of Egyptology thriving for future generations.

I wanted to give you a frank assessment of our position so that you will understand why we need to raise funds both in the immediate future to keep the Society thriving and in the medium term to increase and improve the services we can offer to you, our members.

Many charities will be asking for extra support this year, and I entirely understand that donors themselves may be suffering financially through the current lockdown. But please, if you can possibly afford to, do send us a donation. Gift Aid it if you can if you’re a UK taxpayer: that will give us 20% more without any further cost to you (download our Gift Aid declaration form). If you’re a US taxpayer there’s now also a tax efficient route for you to donate direct to the EES. More than that, please encourage your friends and colleagues to consider joining the EES. If every member were able to recruit one more to join us, our running deficit would be resolved overnight.

More ways to support the EES

Whatever you can do to help, we will welcome it, as we welcome the support you have shown us in the past. The last thing you will want is to be bombarded with emails from me, but of course either Carl or I will keep you posted on our progress as the year proceeds.

With best wishes and continuing thanks,


Dr Linda Steynor

Chair, EES Board of Trustees