Progress of the work: July 2005

 

The cartonnage mummy case of Nakhtefmut

 

Work on the coffins has been carrying on throughout the spring and summer. So far we have been concentrating on the coffin group of Nespawershefy and the beautiful cartonnage mummy case of Nakhtefmut.

Nakhtefmut's mummy case (shown left) was discovered inside his tomb at the Ramesseum at Thebes by Quibell in 1896, together with other artefacts from his burial. The whole group of objects, including the mummy case, will be displayed together in a special new case, and Christina Rozeik, one of our interns, has been working on finding ways of displaying these objects in a suitable way.

Click here to see more information on the progress of the coffin project.

 

At the end of July Tom Riddolls, a conservation student from the MA Art Conservation programme at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada joins us for a six week internship.

Tom's first task is to conserve two statuettes of ibises which came into the collection in 1954 as a result of a bequest from Sir Robert Hyde Greg.

These objects are made from a mixture of materials. So-called composite objects always present extra problems for conservation. Often the process of one material deteriorating has affected the others. Where there is a combination of metal and organic materials as here, we have to make difficult decisions about the best environmental conditions for keeping them. For example, if the metal parts show signs of active corrosion they must be kept dry.

    A statuette of an ibis

A statuette of an ibis

   

Both ibises have bodies made of wood, covered in plaster or gesso (a mixture of plaster and glue). To help the gesso stick to the wood it has been applied over a layer of textile. Gold leaf was then stuck to the gesso. The legs and heads of the birds are made of cast bronze. Ibis E.202.1954 (the top picture) has inlaid eyes made of rock crystal with a thin silver wire surround.

The bronze components are made by the lost-wax technique of casting. You can find out more about this technique on our Pharos website. There is a lot of anatomical detail of skin and feathers but this is hidden under layers of copper corrosion products. Tom removes these mechanically (using a scalpel and working under magnification), using mild chemical treatments on a few areas. He does not clean to a shiny metal surface, because all detail and the original surface of the bronze is held within the layers of corrosion products.

   

Very little of the gilded layer survives. Some of the existing areas are becoming detached and Tom has to feed tiny amounts of acrylic resin from a capilliary tube underneath the loose areas to fix them in place.

 

In the galleries, all the preparation work has been completed, with new wiring and pipework either set behind false walls or waiting to be hidden by display cases. Recesses have been left for some of the built-in cases to fit into. And the floors have been sanded and sealed.

The old Greg gallery has been divided into two parts by a short partition wall. This has produced a darker part of the room which we will use for displaying some of our coffins and other objects from Egyptian burials.

The work of installing the new cases will begin shortly. We hope that we can begin putting the objects into them as soon as possible.

    The Egyptian galleries are ready for the cases to be installed

Image["Reneé Waltham working on the Book of the Dead of Ramose"]

    Image["Reneé Waltham working on the Book of the Dead of Ramose"]

The Fitzwilliam Museum : . July 2005

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