Susanne Töpfer, curator of the Papyrus Collection of the Museo Egizio

An interview

You are the curator responsible for the papyrus collection at the Museo Egizio. What is exactly your job?

In general, the task of a curator is to take care of objects. What I do specifically is manage the documentation of our papyri, oversee research projects involving them, and conduct my own research on the Turin papyrological material. This includes also the communication of research results to the general public by means of lectures, guided tours, and online posts on the museum websites as well as social media. Furthermore, I collaborate with the registrar's office in monitoring the condition and restoration of papyri.


Why papyri? What makes them more interesting to you than other aspects of the material culture of ancient Egypt? What stories do they tell us?

I wouldn’t say papyri are more interesting to me. I have a broad interest in all aspects of ancient Egyptian culture. The written material culture, however, is one of the greatest legacies because it offers a rather concrete insight into ancient Egyptian society, its organisation, literacy and education. I was drawn to papyri because they offered me the possibility to read a variety of texts – narratives, contracts, magical spells and medical prescriptions – thousands of years after they were written.


Where does your passion for Egypt and papyri come from?

From visits to museums, watching documentaries on TV and reading books which my older brother gave me. It goes without saying that movies influenced me too, of course.


As an Egyptologist, what is your long-term goal or dream?

I would like to do a good job and produce a research output that will enrich both Egyptology and popular understanding of ancient Egyptian culture.

Museo Egizio