Papyrus Museum

The small museum, housed in the National Library, displays around 400 of the 180,000 items in the collection (the largest in the world) and illustrates the history of writing from the 15th century BCE to the 16th century CE. In fact, it covers virtually all the scripts/languages recorded onto papyrus during this long historic period. Its foundation was the collection of Archduke Rainer, mainly acquired in Egypt by antiquities dealer Theodor Graf. There are a lot of Ancient Egyptian documents: from religious texts to personal correspondence, tax lists, maps and literary pieces. The current special exhibition (June 2023-May 2024) is entitled: ‘A Gift of the Nile. The Power of Water in Ancient Egypt’. It showcases documents dealing with water management, agriculture, transport, and bathhouses.

Isis and a balance sheet for religious festival
Part of Book of Fayum (map and religious information)

Apart from papyri, there are also writing implements, Greek wooden labels identifying the deceased, and some Fayum portraits.

Greek mummy labels
Fayum portraits

A special room shows the remaining 6 metres of the 3000 year old Book of the Dead of Sesostris (S-en-weseret), found in Thebes. It is written in cursive hieroglyphs, and is the oldest object in the collection.

Extract from the Book of the Dead of Sesostris

It also shows about 8 metres of the 2000 year old Book of the Dead of Taruma (pictured at top of page), a woman from Memphis.

There are computer stations available for more interactive research.

Practical Information

This small and quiet museum is situated in the basement of the Austrian National Library, which is part of the Royal Palace complex.

Address: Neue Burg, Heldenplatz, 1010 Wien

It is close to various tram stops, and the metro (Volkstheater station)

Adult tickets cost 5 euros, under 19s free, family and group tickets available, and guided tours can be requested.

There is a lift and staircase down to the museum, and a ramp at the main entrance. Lockers and toilets are available, and a café in the foyer.

Website (check out virtual tour through the Egyptian afterlife):

*    *    *

Dulcie Engel

I was born in London, and studied French & German at Bristol University, before taking a Masters and PhD in linguistics at Reading University. During my professional career, I taught and published research on French, linguistics and English language at various universities, including Wolverhampton, Swansea and Queens Belfast. I have lived in Swansea since 1994.

I have always been a keen traveller and museum visitor, and since retiring early, I have volunteered at the Egypt Centre Swansea (from April 2014), where I am a gallery supervisor. I specialise in giving tours to adult visitors. During this time I have carried out research on the languages and writing systems used in Ancient Egypt, on various objects in our collection, as well as the history of collecting, and the use of Ancient Egyptian themes in literature (especially Dylan Thomas) and architecture.

I have published articles on these themes in the Egypt Centre Volunteer Newsletter (of which I am now associate editor) and in Inscriptions, the newsletter of the Friends of the Egypt Centre (see I also contribute book and museum reviews. I have given Egyptian themed talks to the Swansea Historical Association, Swansea University Egyptology research group, the Friends of the Egypt Centre, Egypt Centre volunteers and visitors, Norwich U3A, and other local associations.