Thursday, May 19, 2011

How to move a mummy...

Earlier this week we tackled a job that we've been putting off for a while now...packing and moving the museum's mummy.

Actually, to be accurate, it's a mummy case (we checked and it's definitely empty). Unfortunately, we know very little about it. A trawl through our collections records hasn't revealed who donated it to the museum and it's also hard for us to date it. This is partly because, sometime ago, it was given a thick coat of varnish. Although this was probably done to try and protect the surface, the varnish has turned a murky, dark brown colour, through which there are tantalising glimpses of painted decoration.

The idealised face is described on the label as having been 'much re-gilded' and there's a nice rumour that the boys at Bedford Modern School (from whose museum much of the collection here originates) were allowed to practise their gilding skills on it!    

The mummy case

Generally speaking, it's a good idea to try and actually handle an object like this as little possible when moving it, to reduce the risk of causing damage. Opening the display case the mummy has been in for the past few decades, it became clear that removing it entirely would be extremely difficult.

Because we only needed to move the mummy case a short distance by hand into temporary storage, we decided the best option was to pack it in situ. There's often no 'right' or 'wrong' choice in collections problems like this, instead it's best to think in terms of what works for the particular challenges you're facing. Had we been moving the mummy case offsite by vehicle, we would almost certainly have made a different decision.

Firstly, we wrapped the mummy case in a special breathable fabric to protect its surface.

Wrapping it up
The next step was to pad out the inside of the display case with wadges of acid-free tissue, helping to stop any movement.

Making up the tissue wadges

Er, whose hand is that?

After that, we put glass tape and corrugated plastic across the surface of the glass, to add an extra layer of protection (both for us and for the object!).

The finished article - ready to go!
 The display case itself has its own wheels. As the mummy case was now well padded and protected, it was simply a case of wheeling it away...just a short distance to where it would join the rest of the archaeology collection in temporary storage while the redevelopment of the Art Gallery & Museum takes place.

Off to the stores

The mummy case was one of the last really awkward objects to move before we hand over the museum to the builders, and there's a definite sense of relief that the end of the packing project is in sight!  

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