In 1959 the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Egyptian Art began a reinstallation of its collection. At that time the objectives envisioned were modest: a simple rearrangement for chronological consistency; additional lighting; and a few architectural changes. The project changed with curators and directors, however, and the effort now planned for completion in 1983 is a far-reaching one. All objects in the collection are to be displayed, either in primary or secondary galleries; consequently a review of the condition of each work and a reassessment of its dating and importance were undertaken.
Under this program the department's extensive collection of facsimiles of wall decoration, principally produced by the Graphic Section of the Museum's Egyptian Expedition between 1907 and 1937 and supported by the Rogers Fund, received new attention. About half of the facsimiles were exhibited in 1930, accompanied by a small catalogue by Ambrose Lansing, then Associate Curator in the Department of Egyptian Art, and selected examples appeared in the old galleries. In 1976, with the opening of Phase I of the complete reinstallation, virtually all the pictures were placed on exhibition.
The department has always been cautious about collecting original paintings, as they generally occur in standing monuments. It undertook the facsimile project not only to illustrate "the history of draughtsmanship and painting," as Norman de Garis Davies, head of the Graphic Section, said, but also to acquire aids to understanding and appreciating actual objects in the collection. Today, the facsimiles are valuable records because monuments in Egypt are continually destroyed.