The Coptic Museum lies behind the walls of the famous Roman fortress of Babylon in the ancient district of Cairo (Misr Al-Qadima). The area surrounding the museum abounds in lively monuments in an "open museum" that depicts the history of the Coptic period in Egypt. Marcus Simaika Pasha founded this museum in 1910 to collect material necessary to study the history of Christianity in Egypt. At that time there were several museums in Egypt: the Cairo Museum for pharaonic antiquities, the Greco-Roman Museum in Alexandria, and the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo. The Coptic Museum was founded to fill the gap in the records of Egyptian history and art.
The largest collection of Coptic artifacts and the most significant collection of Coptic art in the world are found in this museum and include 16,000 pieces. The Old Wing of the museum is a fine piece of architecture consisting of a series of large rooms. In 1931, the Egyptian government recognized the importance of the Coptic Museum and attached it to the state. In 1947, a large New Wing was opened, its style similar to that of the Old Wing. President Mubarak opened the restored museum in 1984.
The old wing of the museum houses a collection of wood furnishings and inlaid doors. Of special note is the sycamore wood sanctuary screen from the Church of Saint Barbara. The panels are recognizable as having been crafted in the Fatimid period during the eleventh or twelfth century. The collection housed in the new wing contains objects decorated with geometric designs, scrolls of acanthus and vine leaves, and friezes inhabited by rabbits, peacocks, birds, and rural activities. These styles and themes were passed from the Hellenistic and Coptic legacy into the Islamic artistic vocabulary in Egypt.