Artifact Investigation

I love those artefact conservation posts! Here is one from Carrie at the Kelsey about a bowl from Karanis covered with some mysterious white stuff. (And I love a good detective story as well!)

Kelsey Museum

CAROLINE ROBERTS, Conservator, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

I love a good mystery, and nothing (save a really good crime novel) is better than an artifact mystery. I love the thrill of investigating an object, identifying its agents of deterioration, and nabbing those culprits one by one. I also really enjoy teaching new conservators how to use investigative tools to make their own observations. I recently spent a day looking at an object with Ellen Seidell, a U of M junior who is interning in our lab. The ceramic bowl – excavated at Karanis in 1929 – was covered with feathery white crystals, as well as a drippy, peeling surface coating. I had my suspicions as to what these were, but wanted Ellen to learn for herself how to identify unknown materials.

To do this, we examined the bowl under longwave ultraviolet light. This is a useful tool not only for…

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An Open Letter to Ancient People

Found this post very amusing. It’s  An Open Letter to Ancient People from Conservator Suzanne Davis at the Kelsey. Love it! There are many times when archaeologists, conservators and other scholars would like to speak to ancient people…

SUZANNE DAVIS, Curator of Conservation Dear Ancient People, I am writing this letter in response to my recent work on your textiles for the upcoming Kelsey Museum exhibit Less Than Perfect. I am writing this letter because I love you. I do. Please believe that. Your textiles are lovely. Super beautiful. But they are […]

via An Open Letter to Ancient People — Kelsey Museum

Installing Oplontis

My spring is already crazy, but I hope to have time to go see this exhibition….  I got the invitation in the mail a little while ago.

Kelsey Museum

BY CAROLINE ROBERTS, Conservator, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

For the past four weeks it has been all hands on deck at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. Indeed, it has taken the entire Kelsey village – curators, registrars, conservators, educators, and exhibit coordinators – to bring Oplontis to life.

The first step in installing Oplontis was to receive the objects. Over 30 crates of artifacts arrived from Italy nearly five weeks ago. Kelsey collections managers were at the Museum (very) early in the morning to oversee the movement of the crates from truck to loading dock to gallery. The crates were allowed to adjust to the climate of the Kelsey galleries for about a day before being opened.

Oplontis 3 The Nike sculpture travels from the first to the second floor galleries

Our next step was to unpack and install the artifacts. We did this with the help of two couriers, Giuseppe…

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The Kelsey’s Ugly Object of the Month

Suzanne at the Kelsey had mentioned this blog post idea when I visited last month. I’m glad it came into being because ‘ugly’ objects can be very important–sometimes more important than pretty ones!
Enjoy this post on Aphrodite and her prosthetic legs!

Kelsey Museum

BY SUZANNE DAVIS, Curator for Conservation, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

Beauty isn’t everything at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology; we value all evidence of life in the ancient world, even when the object is, erm, ugly. This month’s ugly object is an Aphrodite figurine made from copper alloy (aka bronze).

Figurine of Aphrodite. Bronze. Late 3rd century AD? KMA 10888. Before treatment. Figurine of Aphrodite. Bronze. Late 3rd century AD? KMA 10888. Before treatment.

I would never argue that Aphrodite herself is unattractive, but this figurine has seen better days. It was severely corroded when excavated at Karanis, Egypt, in the 1930s, and the legs were in pieces. Sometime after excavation, the corrosion patina was stripped with an electrochemical treatment that was once popular for archaeological metals. This resulted in a dull, brown, pitted surface with multiple holes.

Fast forward to 2015, when this object was chosen for a special exhibition. We wanted to reattach the feet and other fragments, but the…

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Death Dogs and a bunch of cool people

Last week, I travelled to Michigan to visit the Egyptian and Classical collections at the Detroit Institute of Art (Dr. Nii Quarcoopome kindly toured me around their lovely Egyptian galleries) and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

A glance at the exhibition on jackal gods in ancient Egypt (now closed).

A glance at the exhibition on jackal gods in ancient Egypt (now closed).

You might recall a post I reblogged a while back about the exhibition Death Dogs: Jackal Gods of Ancient Egypt. Well, I went to see the exhibition mentioned in that post. It was very lovely and it had super cool banners! Death Dogs is a small permanent collection exhibition with a focus on canine deities in ancient Egypt (beloved by children and Egyptologists all over the world). I’m all for that sort of thematic exhibition. I like to explore new ways to present material with which people may already be familiar… the objects feel new when you display them differently, following a theme. It was nice little show curated by Egyptologist Terry Wilfong.

However, I had another reason to go to Ann Arbor. I have been hearing great things about the university, reading fabulous excavation reports by Egyptologist Janet Richards and the conservators working on site with her at Abydos, and, while attending the Nubian conference in Switzerland back in September, I had met Geoff Emberling, who works there as well. So from Detroit, I drove to Ann Arbor and met with Janet, Suzanne Carrie and Madeleine. Everybody was so nice and I had great time touring with Janet in the galleries as well as in storage, and spending time in the lab with the conservators after lunch.

It was a great trip and it gave me great ideas for future Weinberg lectures!