Ask us!

While we’ve made an attempt to answer some of your questions in the FAQs section of this blog, we realize that we can’t address all of them.

We’d love to hear from you!

There are a few ways that you can ask us questions. You can visit us in the Artifact Lab during one of our 30-minute open window chat sessions:

Tuesday-Friday 11:15am and 2:00pm, Saturday-Sunday 12:30pm and 3:30pm

OR

You can submit your questions below in the comments box and we’ll try to answer them promptly. You can also submit questions in the comments box below each blogpost and in the other sections on the blog.

We’ll look forward to hearing from you!

 

  • Pingback: Questions from the Artifact Lab: collecting and acquisions at the Penn Museum()

  • Tira Vanichtheeranont

    Anubis Agate

    To whom it may concern: Hi
    My name is Tira from Thailand. I have a very interesting Sun Agate which have a symbol of Anubis on one side , while the other side , have a symbol of Horus’s Eye. This is a very old agate piece. My friend told me that this is the artifact that the Mummy hole in his hand for the incarnation purpose and that this is the artifact from the New Dynasty.

    Could you please let me know if these pattern is natural of Agate Stone or the man made etching agate.

    If you need more close up pictures or any more details , then I can send bis email to you.

    Best regards,

    Tira

  • McCall School 7th Grade

    What sort of solvents are used to remove dirt without removing the paint on the hieroglyphics that you were cleaning today?

    What is the relative humidity in the room that you do the conservation in? Do you reduce the humidity?

    How much time on average does it take to get an artifact ready for display in the museum?

    Thanks for sharing what you do with us!

    • mgleeson

      Hello McCall School 7th Grade!

      – So I think you’re asking about the painted wooden coffin boards from
      Abydos that I have been working on in the lab. I will be posting
      something soon on the blog about this project, but to answer your
      question about the cleaning process, I’m actually not using
      any solvents to remove the dirt on the surface. Instead, I’m using a
      kneaded rubber eraser to gently pick up, or essentially, erase away the
      dirt. It’s working really well! I’ll post photos showing before and
      after cleaning soon.

      – The relative humidity in the Artifact Lab is about 55% right now. This
      can fluctuate depending on the temperature, and its generally a bit more
      humid in the summer and drier in the winter. We don’t need to adjust it
      much because, fortunately, the lab is located
      in a recently renovated part of the museum, so the temperature and RH
      are controlled by the HVAC system. The important thing about RH is that it remains moderate (somewhere around 50%) and that it doesn’t fluctuate dramatically in a short time – this can lead to damage of artifacts.

      – The amount of time that it takes to prepare an object for exhibit (from a conservation perspective) depends on the needs of the object. It can take from 1
      hour to weeks to even months. Sometimes we just need to document
      condition and other times we need to carry out
      more extensive treatment. Besides conservation treatment, objects need
      to be researched, labels need to be written, and often special mounts need to be made for them in
      order to support them in their display cases. When preparing for an exhibit, we like to receive a list of the objects at least 1 year in advance, in order to give us enough time to work on them.
      Thanks so much for your questions and let us know if you have any more!

  • mgleeson

    hi Gavin – We posted a response to this a long time ago, but I just
    noticed that it’s not showing up here. I’m so sorry about that. We have
    13 complete human Egyptian mummies, as well as some mummified body parts
    (or parts of mummies). We also have a lot of animal mummies in the Egyptian collection, including 20 cats, 3 dogs, 9 falcons, 26 ibis, 11 crocodiles, and even a snake! Thanks again for your question.

  • Jake Eraklidis

    Hello, have you completed any DNA tests on any of the mummies?

    • mgleeson

      hi Jake. We have not done any DNA testing on the Egyptian mummies in our collection. Ancient DNA analysis is complicated, due to age of the specimens, preservation of the DNA, and contamination of the samples, so unless there is a burning research question or request, we don’t sample/allow sampling for this purpose. But there have been some advances in DNA technology in recent years that may change this. In conservation, we don’t do DNA testing, but we do collaborate with specialists who do this work, to make sure that our work doesn’t interfere or cause further contamination of the samples.

  • mgleeson

    hi Jack. Sorry, I only just saw your question today. I’m going to check to make sure and I’ll get back to you asap. Thanks!

  • mgleeson

    hi Jack, You’re welcome to use any of the images on this blog for the ancient Egypt facebook page, as long as you credit the images. This could be something like “images courtesy of the Penn Museum” and if you could link back to the blog, that would be great. Thanks!

  • http://www.specialcollections.mmu.ac.uk Alison Draper

    Hi,
    i am an object conservator in Manchester UK and really enjoying the ‘In the Artefact Lab’ series. Could you tell me any more about how you undertook the condition maps shown in the post about Nefrina’s Funary mask – they look like a really useful tool and I haven’t seen them before.
    many thanks
    alison

    • mgleeson

      hi Alison, We use Photoshop for creating condition maps. We find them to be really useful for documenting condition and treatment on objects that are more complex and/or very large. I often import a photo of the object into Photoshop, and then mark it up on one of our tablets using a stylus, and this works really well. I have also experimented using an ipad with a stylus, which works well too, and it is very handy to be able to take the photo directly with the ipad-it cuts out a step of having to download the photo to the computer first. Let me know if you have any other questions about this!

  • mgleeson

    We have not done C14 dating on any of our animal mummies. We wouldn’t rule it out, but so far, since many of our animal mummies come from known sites and burial contexts, dating them in this way hasn’t been necessary.

  • mgleeson

    hi Peppy. We are just getting started using our own digital x-ray system, so we are learning as well! I can tell you that so far we have x-rayed an ibis mummy and a “corn” mummy. For the ibis, we found that 30kV, 1mA, 6 seconds worked well. For the corn mummy, it needed more energy to penetrate since it is so densely packed, so we used 35kV, 1mA, and 12 seconds. We are finding that the digital system doesn’t require as much radiation to produce good quality images, so the amount of time we expose the plate is much less than you would need with a conventional system. I hope this helps! Look for upcoming posts about radiography of our mummies.

  • Brittany White

    Hi Molly! I have always been interested in things related to cultural heritage, anthropology, and archaeology but I am not strong in science nor do I have an art history background. However, I would love to make a career out of my passion for this kind of thing. What other museum jobs besides conservator allow you to work closely with ancient artifacts?

    • mgleeson

      hi Brittany! There are lots of people in the museum who work closely
      with artifacts. Most people who work in Collections (including
      Registration, Collections Management, and Conservation) work with
      objects on a daily basis. Our Exhibitions Department, especially the
      mountmakers, also work closely with objects. If you think that
      conservation is not the right fit for you, I encourage you to look into
      these other areas, and perhaps search for an internship or volunteer
      opportunity in one of these areas, which would give you a good idea of
      the differences between these roles and what these types of jobs entail.
      There are some good job/internship websites for museum-related work –
      check out this blogpost on the Emerging Museum Professionals blog: https://emergingprofessionals….
      If you have further questions, please let me know! Thanks for writing in with a question :)

  • mgleeson

    hi Brittany – I don’t know anything about this, so I’ll have to ask one of our Egyptologists. I’ll try to find out for you and post a response soon.

  • Judi Wilson Jackson

    I was wondering if you have any reference or information on the Egyptian blue pigment/dye being used on any hebrew clothing during the time it was.used in Egypt.

    • Judi Wilson Jackson

      Also, is there anyone at UPenn who can give me a comparison between the Egyptian blue, ancient indigo dye and the murex (Tekhelet) dye proclaimed to have been used by ancient Hebrews for their tzitzit (tassles).

      • mgleeson

        hi Judi – Unfortunately I don’t really know anything about this topic. If Egyptian blue was applied to textiles, it would have been by painting, rather than dyeing, but I have never worked on a textile with Egyptian blue on it. Are you interested in a chemical analysis comparison, or are you more interested in knowing how the different materials were used?

        • Judi Wilson Jackson

          Hi, Molly, thank you for getting back to me so quickly!!

          I am disappointed, though, to learn that Egyptian blue may have only been used as painted and not dyed on textiles. It may shoot a HUGE hole in my theory!!! LOL Would you know of anyone in the field who may have worked with restoration of Egyptian blue on textiles?

          I would really love a chemical analysis comparison, if that would be possible, as well as a historical use (how, when and by whom). I have been studying the origin of the Tekhelet dyes claimed to have been used for traditional ancient tzitzit. I have a dilemma with it, though, as costs would have been prohibitive for the average Hebrew/Israelite to have used. I am studying the information at the Dye Institute in Israel as well as other sources. Anything that you are able to share would be much appreciated.

          Thanks so very much. Kindly, Judi

          • mgleeson

            hi Judi – there are some dye substances (indigo, madder) that can be made into pigments through a process called “laking” but most pigments cannot be used as dyes. You may have better luck contacting a textile conservator who has worked with Egyptian collections, as they would be more likely to have worked more extensively on painted and dyed textiles. I’m sure you know of this, but just through a Google search I found that Naama Sukenik at the Israel Antiquities Authority has done some extensive research on dyed textiles, including blue dyes. It sounds like it would be worth speaking with her if you haven’t already. All best wishes and good luck with your research!

  • E.B. Bartels

    Hello! I am researching animal mummies for an essay I am writing, and I was wondering: how many animal mummies are on display at the Penn Museum right now? Is it possible to see other animal mummies in the collection if they are not on display? Thank you!

    • mgleeson

      Hi! We have 8 animal mummies on display – 3 in the Artifact Lab and 5 in the Mummy Gallery. We are also working on some animal mummies in the Artifact Lab at the moment, so it is possible to see those sometimes, when we’re working on them. If you visit, please come to one of our open window sessions and ask us about them – we can bring them out for you to see. Tuesday-Friday 11:15-11:45, 2:00-2:30, Saturday-Sunday 12:30-1:00, 3:30-4:00. Good luck on your essay!

      • E.B. Bartels

        Thank you so much! This is very helpful. I will plan a visit to see your mummies in person soon.

  • Suzanne Davis

    Hi Penn Conservators – I want to follow your blog, but can’t figure out how to do it. Can you add a “follow” option? I’m not on Twitter, but would still love to know when you have a new blog post up. Thanks!

    • mgleeson

      hi Suzanne! I believe that if you go to the main page of the blog and scroll down to the end of the column on the right, you just need to click on “Entries RSS” and you can subscribe there. Let us know if this doesn’t work and we’ll make sure we figure out a way for you to subscribe/follow us. Thanks for your interest!