Progress of the work: May 2006
It has been all go this month, as we try to get everything finished before the Egyptian galleries reopen on 25th May. One of the galleries has been finished already, and many of the smaller objects are already in place in the other two. We still have to install some of the coffins into the big, free-standing cases in the Greg gallery, however.
The picture on the right shows conservator Lucy Skinner and technicians Bob Bourne and John Lancaster putting the mummy board of Nespawershefyt into one of these free-standing display cases. We were very keen to display this beautifully-decorated mummy board upright in the new galleries, as it will be one of the first things which visitors see when moving between the galleries.
Ensuring the safety of the board while it stands upright is quite a technical challenge. Fortunately, Bob and Lucy rose to the challenge by designing a special mount for the mummy board. Lucy made a moulded foot for the bottom of the board to sit in, and Bob designed some brackets in Perspex which gently support the board without damaging it. It has been well worth the hard work which went into making this mount, as the mummy board looks splendid now it is on display.
One of the last objects to go into its case is the statue of Osiris made from dried mud. Last August's diary entry described how Christina, then our conservation intern, had started to treat this problematic object.
The treatment which Christina had devised was partially successful, as it allowed her to remove most of the animal glue which disfigured the statue from a previous treatment. The fragile condition of the mud continued to be a problem, however, so Christina decided that a more interventive approach was needed if the statue were to be made safe for display.
Last summer, the treatment was concentrated only on the most crumbly areas of mud, which were strengthened by being consolidated (impregnated with a resin). This successfully strengthened the weakest parts of the statue, but other parts continued to crumble away every time the statue was moved or handled.
Deciding that a bolder approach was needed, Christina consolidated the whole of the statue this time, limiting any staining of the surface by using cyclododecane as before. The picture above shows the statue wrapped in clingfilm while the consolidant penetrates deep into the mud to strengthen it.
Fortunately, this recent treatment seems to have done the trick, and the statue is now very much stronger.
The only problem with this treatment was that the cyclododecane used to mask the surface of the mud during consolidation took longer to disappear than we had anticipated, so there were still some traces of it on the statue when it went on display! The picture on the right shows the figure of Osiris just before the galleries opened; the white traces around his headdress are the remains of the cyclododecane. Luckily, these disappeared completely within a week, leaving the figure much improved in appearance and strength.