Penn Museum’s Conservation Department is a happening place these days, with lots and lots of projects going on simultaneously. The upcoming renovation of our signature Egyptian Galleries is providing a special set of challenges. Among them are the many monumental architectural pieces that have been on exhibition since the galleries opened in 1926. These will all have to be relocated prior to the renovation work (except the Sphinx; the construction crew will just have to work around him!). But, before these large pieces can be moved, their condition must be assessed and any treatment necessary to stabilize them prior to the move has to be carried out. It’s a big job in every sense of the words.
We got our head start on this when we deinstalled the south and east walls of the tomb chapel of Kaipure in December 2015 This monumental piece had to come down because we deemed its 90-year-old wooden support to be in danger from vibration generated a nearby construction project.
In April 2017, Céline Chrétien joined our team as Project Conservator for the Kaipure work. Céline trained in sculpture conservation at Institut National du Patrimoine in France and has worked on painted Egyptian limestone architecture at the site of Athribis in Egypt. She has spent the last two months familiarizing herself with Kaipure and its previous treatments and developing a treatment protocol that will be applied to each of the 60+ blocks comprising the wall. Now she is being joined by two assistants who will help her carry out the treatments. If you’d like to watch them at work, they’ll be in the glass enclosure in the Sphinx Gallery most weekdays. But, please, don’t interrupt their work by asking questions – they have a lot to do and not much time to do it. You can take your questions to the original Artifact Lab on the third floor during its Open Window times (Weekdays 11-11:30 and 1:30-2; Weekends 12-12:30 and 3-3:30) or submit them to the Artifact Lab blog and we’ll be happy to answer them that way.
Penn Museum Conservation has recently been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Antiquities Endowment Fund of the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE). In addition to partially supporting the current conservation of the tomb chapel of Kaipure, the grant will enable digital documentation of architectural elements from the Palace of Merenptah, currently on exhibit in the same gallery. Planned building renovations will require the disassembly of these monumental pieces in the near future and the digital scanning will facilitate their reassembly in the revitalized and reimagined Egyptian Galleries to reopen after the renovations are completed.