This Week in the Egyptian Gallery

This week, the Egyptian Gallery is temporarily closed to the public for scientific tests on certain artefacts in the collection. It’s the next step in an exciting project I’ve been working on for the last five years … the Museum’s first-ever Systematic Catalogue of the Egyptian Collection.

A systematic catalogue is a book that features every single painting or artefact in a collection. SysCats (that’s what curators call this type of catalogue) are very important because they show the world (the general public and scholars alike) what we have in our Museum, and they encourage further academic research. The Museum is planning a series of systematic catalogues, a volume for each of the collections in its holding. Curator Dennis Weller published the first of these catalogues, Seventeenth-Century Dutch and Flemish Paintings, which you can purchase at the Museum Store. (It’s a fabulous book!)

Second in the series, the Egyptian SysCat will feature all 37 artifacts, each beautifully illustrated with recent colour photographs. The catalogue entries will include a very detailed description (what is it, what was it used for, what does it mean, how old is it, where does it come from, who owned it before us, etc.), a translation of the hieroglyphs, publications in which the objects appeared … basically,  everything you always wanted to know about our Egyptian collection!

It’s long and tedious work (just ask Dennis), and I have been studying the Egyptian artefacts for five years in order to write this catalogue. Conservator Noelle Ocon and I have taken x-rays of several objects (including the coffins of Amunred and Djed Mut), Billy and I took the grain mummy for a CT scan last summer, and I have spent endless hours doing research and deciphering hieroglyphs. We even had a conservation scientist (think CSI for art) come to the NCMA to take samples of various pigments for analysis.

There are a few more things we want to do—take a sample for thermoluminescence dating and look at an object or two under ultraviolet light—before we complete the research. That’s what is happening this week. Noelle will set up lab equipment in the gallery in order to do a complete conservation assessment of the collection.

While the gallery are closed, you can certainly stand quietly by the stanchions to peek at the activities within. However, we do ask that you not disturb Noelle, me, or any staff member working in the gallery. If you have questions, just send an e-mail or post a comment on the blog. Thank you for your consideration.

Support for this research has been provided in part by GlaxoSmithKline and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Ann and Jim Goodnight Fund for Curatorial and Conservation Research and Travel.

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  1. [...] the Museum’s Handbook of the Collections. Shots from this photo session will also appear in the Systematic Catalogue of the Ancient Egyptian Collection, to be published in [...]

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