In addition to continuing to x-ray the animal mummies, the Conservation Lab has started preparing to send several human mummies to North Shore University Hospital. Some readers of this blog may remember that we took the Mummy Demetrius to North Shore for computed tomography or CT scanning before touring as part of the exhibition To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum. Demetrius and this exhibition are currently at the Columbus Museum of Art, in Ohio.
The first step before traveling the mummies to the hospital is an examination to determine if they are stable and in a state of preservation that makes CT scanning worth the effort. This week, we examined one of the humans that has been in the museum since 1937.
The mummy and his coffin have been in storage, and neither the Curatorial Department nor the Conservation Lab had any previous record of the coffin having been opened in Brooklyn.
The lid of the coffin was sealed shut due to a previous mounting added when it was part of the Collection at the New York Historical Society. The coffin was brought to the lab in order to document the condition and remove the lid.
Once we gained access to the interior, we found inside a mummy covered with a thick layer of dust, and evidence of unwrapping.
Through x-radiography, it was determined that the torso, although extant, was disturbed, and that the soft tissues were not likely present. CT scans are very useful at looking at soft tissues, while traditional x-rays are sufficient when examining denser substances such as bones.
Kerith Koss, the Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Objects Conservation pieced together images of the x-rays so that we have a better idea of the mummy’s overall state of preservation.
In consulting with the radiologists at the hospital, we have decided to not send this mummy for CT scanning, as there is likely not more information to be gained. However, while in the lab, he did get a much needed vacuuming. Stay tuned for more updates of this project.
Lisa Bruno is the head conservator of objects at the Brooklyn Museum, where she has been working since 1993. She has previously worked at the Art Institute of Chicago, and has had internships at The Cleveland Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and in private practice. She has a Masters Degree in Art Conservation from the University of Delaware, Winterthur Museum Art Conservation Department. She is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation.