Isère Tourism

Champollion Museum

The first museum in France dedicated to the birth of Egyptology attracts Egyptologists and lovers of Ancient Egypt to learn more about the life and work of Jean-François Champollion, who cracked the code of hieroglyphics. Housed in the former home of the Champollion family, the Champollion Museum transports visitors from Isère to the banks of the Nile.

The Champollion Brothers

The two brothers were deeply attached to the Dauphiné. Although born in Figeac, in the province of Quercy (in the Lot), as a young adult, Jacques-Joseph moved to Grenoble, the home of his father's family, and quickly sent for his younger brother, a child prodigy whose studies he supervised. 


In 1807, the elder Champollion married Zoé Berriat, and the family regularly spent time at the Berriat’s home in Vif, the Maison des Champs. Jacques-Joseph's work as a researcher in Grenoble enabled Jean-François, the younger brother, to enjoy many stays in Vif. 

The birth of Egyptology

In his room on the second floor, Jean-François spent long hours studying Egyptian civilisation and hieroglyphs, most notably those on the Rosetta Stone, a relic found on a French expedition to Egypt in 1799 (currently housed in the British Museum), inscribed with three ancient languages. 


On September 27, 1822, Jean-Francois finally cracked the complex system of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, with the encouragement of his older brother, by identifying the kharratis, oval shapes found in the hieroglyphic text which include the names of kings and queens. He determined that the ancient script combined both phonetic and ideographic signs – the first such writing system discovered.


This revelation was an important milestone in the emerging field of Egyptology. The deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphs allowed for the exploration of an entire civilisation as the ancient texts were now understandable. Jean-François Champollion then devoted his life to the study of ancient Egypt, paving the way for many successive researchers. 

The Champollion Estate

A listed historic monument, the Maison de Champs estate comprises a manor house, outbuildings and a vast park covering 2.5 hectares. Kept and cared for by the descendants of Jacques-Joseph Champollion-Figeac, the Egyptologist’s older brother, up until the early 21st century, the estate was acquired by the Department of Isère and has undergone an ambitious € 6.2M renovation restructuring existing spaces with a floor space of 728 m2, and adding a new 354 m2 building.


The descendants preserved the interior decorations of this former family property, including personal objects belonging to the Champollion brothers - notably rubbings from the Rosetta stone, a large library, working notes and abundant correspondence. 


Jean-François Champollion’s personal effects include his Hebrew Bible, his mahogany tiered writing desk intimately linked to the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs, and his Egyptian outfit worn during the 1828–29 expedition. Fascinating rubbings of the Rosetta Stone, bearing his own handwritten notes, and numerous documents testify to his extensive research work. 


The renowned Champollion-Figeac library comprises 1,100 works dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries covering history, epigraphy (study of inscriptions), Egypt and the earliest research focusing on hieroglyphic decipherment. It notably includes two proofs of the historical preface to the Description of Egypt (Description de l'Égypte) entrusted by Napoleon Bonaparte to Joseph Fourier, the prefect of Grenoble, who had accompanied Napoleon on the Egyptian expedition.

The Champollion Museum

The house will present a permanent exhibition on the lives and works of the Champollion brothers with 15 rooms, and 340 works and objects in the permanent exhibition, with a further 1,700 works and objects in the reserve collection.


With an immersive museum design, the scenography plunges visitors into the 19th-century world of the Champollion brothers, retracing step-by-step the siblings’ fascinating intertwined careers. 


The outbuildings include a temporary exhibition space and a classroom/workshop, a reception area and a museum shop. The landscaped parkland and the kitchen garden have been recreated with newly planted trees, flower beds and an orchard of local species. 


The permanent exhibits revolve around three main themes: Two Men, One Legend; their Lives as Researchers; and the Origins of Egyptology.

Two men, one legend

Focusing on both Champollion brothers, the exhibit sheds light on the complexities of this fraternal relationship, showing the important influence that Jacques-Joseph, elder brother, and substitute father and protector, had on the younger Jean-François.

Their lives as researchers

The Champollion brothers’ respective careers offer fascinating illustrations of 19th-century research. The archives of the Champollion family highlight the inseparable scientific work and shared passion of the two brothers focusing on the researcher’s particular approach and path from apprenticeship and emulation to sharing and publishing information and knowledge, showcasing trials and errors, as well as its successes. This theme is of particular interest in Grenoble, home to an extensive scientific community. An ensemble of 60 volumes of correspondence, the family archives, listed as historical documents in 1997, constitute one of the finest intellectual, historical and scientific collections from the first half of the 19th century. 

The origins of Egyptology

The work and fundamental contribution of the decipherment were the culmination of centuries of questioning and studies. By exploring the careers of the Champollion brothers, the museum reveals the essential milestones leading to the creation of Egyptology as a scientific discipline, demonstrating how Egypt became the mother of all civilisations, replacing Ancient Greece and Rome, provoking a vast movement within the arts, and a radical change in perceptions.

Champollion Museum in Vif becomes a Museum of France

This project is perfectly suited to Isère's strong cultural policy. With the opening of the new Champollion Museum in 2021, Isère now has 11 departmental museums. Access to these museums is mostly free of charge. The aim is to make all heritage sites (historical, archaeological, artistic, ethnographic) accessible to the public. Engaging, surprising and poignant, the departmental museums are all places where you can enjoy yourself and learn something new.