The Egyptian Museum in Florence is the second most important Egyptian Museum in Italy, second only to the Egyptian Museum in Turin. It is housed in the Archaeological Museum. The first group of Egyptian antiquities in Florence was acquired as early as in the 18th century for the collections of the Medici family, and this group was substantially enlarged during the 19th century. Leopold II, in particular, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, did much to enlarge the collection by forming his own collection in collaboration with Charles X, the king of France. He also financed a scholarly expedition to Egypt in 1828 and 1829, directed by Jean-François Champollion, who deciphered the hieroglyphs, and his friend and student Ippolito Rosellini from Pisa who later became the founding father of Italian Egyptology. Many objects were acquired during this expedition, either through archaeological excavations or through purchase from local dealers. Upon return to Europe the objects were divided between the Louvre, Paris and Florence.
The Egyptian Museum in Florence was officially founded in 1855. Ernesto Schiaparelli, an Egyptologist from Piedmont who was later to become Director of the Turin Egyptian Museum, moved the Egyptian collection into a new building in 1880 and reorganized it. Before he moved to Turin, Schiaparelli also substantially enlarged the collection by conducting excavations in Egypt and through purchases. The final group of collections which entered the Egyptian Museum in Florence consists of donations by private individuals and scholarly institutions. The donation of finds by the Papyrological Institute in Florence deserves special mention. These finds were made in Egypt between 1934 and 1939 and they include a collection of Coptic textiles which is among the richest and most important anywhere in the world.
The Egyptian Museum in Florence currently houses more than 14,000 items, divided over nine exhibition rooms and two magazines. Most of the exhibition space has recently been renovated, and the arrangement of the objects by Schiaparelli has been replaced by a chronological and, where possible, a topographical order. The collection contains material dating from prehistoric into Coptic times, and it includes significant arrays of stelae, vessels, shabti figurines, amulets, and bronzes from various periods. Of the numerous important and interesting items, the following are particularly noteworthy: statues from the reign of Amenhotep III, the most important ruler of the Eighteenth Dynasty; a pillar from the tomb of Seti I; a faience beaker with a square rim; the equipment of the nurse of Pharaoh Taharqa's daughter; the portrait of a woman from the Faiyum; the collection of Coptic textiles; and an important group of plaster casts from the end of the 19th century.