Moving a mummy

 

Image["E.63.1903"]

This Roman mummy has been standing upright in his display case for many years. This puts a lot of stress on the object. In the new display he will be lying down, as he was for 17 centuries whilst he was still buried.

Any mummy is quite a complex package and we are concerned about creating new stresses inside by moving him and by returning him to his original position. So our conservator, Julie Dawson, has thought of an ingenious way of supporting him in the process, using something called a vacuum cushion. This is a piece of medical equipment designed to support patients during treatment.

 

A company called Oncology Systems Limited have kindly agreed to supply us with a full body vacuum cushion at a reduced price. The first part of the process of moving the mummy is to position the cushion behind him. Then the air within the vacuum cushion is pumped out very slowly to ensure that the cushion supports, but does not crush, the mummy.

Image["Positioning vacuum cushion"]

 

Image["Wrapping the mummy in the vacuum cushion"]

Technician Bob Bourne holds the cushion around the mummy. As the air is pumped out, a vacuum is created inside the bag and the tiny polystyrene beads, which are inside it, are held rigidly in whatever shape they have formed. In the case of the mummy, they form a perfect cradle to hold him in position for transport and conservation.

The mummy, now safely wrapped up inside his protective vacuum cushion, is ready to be taken out of the case where he has been on show for so long.

Image["Mummy in vacuum cushion"]

 

Image["Wrapping the mummy in the vacuum cushion"]

   

Once out of the case, the mummy within its new cradle can be safely moved into a horizontal position and laid on to a "stretcher". This is then placed on a trolley, transported out of the gallery and taken to safe storage.

The vacuum cushion is expected to hold its shape for up to six weeks, but Julie will be checking it regularly to make sure that the vacuum is holding and the mummy remains securely cradled.


The Fitzwilliam Museum : Progress

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