What do you do when your mummy breaks? Take it to Give Me a Break Conservation Services, Inc. Not your run of the mill discount repair shop by any means, Give Me A Break Conservation is the highly respected conservation practice of Linda Nieuwenhuizen of Long Island City, NY. Because the NCMA Conservation Center specializes only in paintings restoration, an objects specialist was needed to assess the condition of the Museum’s ancient Egyptian collection, including the Gilded Mummy Covering—aka the Golden Boy. Linda fit the bill having worked for many years at the Museum of Natural History in New York before establishing her private practice. She currently serves as adjunct faculty for the NYU Conservation Program and has worked on many important private and public collections of ancient artifacts.
Composed of several separate pieces, the Golden Boy is not actually a mummy, but an embellishment incorporated onto the bandages of a mummified body. Vestiges of the original mummy wrapping can still be seen stuck to the back side of the covering. Golden Boy was tagged by Linda as IN NEED OF IMMEDIATE REPAIR because of the deterioration of the ancient materials and past restorations, and cracking caused by the old exhibition mount.
The helmet mask and pectoral are representative of the condition problems identified on the various fragments of the gilded mummy covering. There are cracks on the mask, at the chin, on the top and back of the head as well as at the sides in the shoulder region, caused by the exhibition mount, which did not support the mask adequately. There is also a crack on the bottom edge of the pectoral which resulted from the weight of the fragile structure resting on a metal mounting pin. There are losses to the blue paint of the wig and the gold leaf. The overall surface of the pectoral is slightly undulated and the wrappings on the reverse are loose.
The treatment involved cleaning the surface by brush and vacuum, and specialized chemical sponges. Loose paint/gold was noted and consolidated with a conservation adhesive. The cracked areas were humidified with deionized water to relax the structure, then reformed and gently moved into better alignment. Cracks were reinforced with small strips of spun, bonded polyester fabric adhered with conservation adhesive. Additionally tabs of the polyester were adhered to the back of the cloth to assist in remounting. Linda suggested that the mummy covering be supported by a mount that conforms to the actual curvature of the various fragments.
Now that the piece is stabilized and conserved, it can be safely displayed in the new building. The challenge before us is to figure out how to safely display Golden Boy without the new mounting system breaking it again. Indeed, a challenge! But I’m not worried—we’ve got a great team working on this. We’ll come up with a brilliant idea that will make Golden Boy shine more than ever!