The Artifact Lab: back in business

We have not posted on the blog in awhile, but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t been up to our eyeballs in work! In fact, the Artifact Lab has been closed to the public since the week after Thanksgiving but it re-opens tomorrow as part of a larger exhibit, Ancient Egypt: From Discovery to Display. This new exhibit will highlight some of our Museum’s excavations in Egypt around the turn of the last century (in Memphis) and in the present day (in Abydos). It also will include artifacts that were previously on display in our Lower Egyptian gallery, which we closed last July to begin conservation work on the monumental pieces previously displayed in that space. This work is in preparation for the future opening of our Ancient Egypt and Nubia galleries and is part of our larger Building Transformation project.

Photos showing the deinstallation of pieces in the Lower Egyptian gallery, summer 2018

Another feature of Ancient Egypt: From Discovery to Display is a visible storage area, adjacent to the Artifact Lab, which will show coffins, mummies, and other funerary materials on “display” on storage shelves. Some of this material was treated recently in the Artifact Lab while other pieces are awaiting treatment in the upcoming months. Display cases in this space contain some pretty stellar pieces including 2 painted wooden boat models from the First Intermediate Period and the faience broad collar that was recently re-strung.

View of the visible storage space, with the Artifact Lab in the background

Before we re-open and our focus turns completely to working on material for the new Ancient Egypt and Nubia galleries, we thought we’d reflect on what we have done in the Artifact Lab over the last 6+ years that we have been open. Here are some numbers:

6+ years (77 months) in the Artifact Lab:

  • Spoken to approximately 30,000 museum visitors during our twice daily open window sessions (that is more than 2000 hours, or 83 days of talking!)
  • The outreach has been carried out by 15 conservators, five curriculum interns, 21 pre-program interns, four high school interns, and five Penn-affiliated non-conservator colleagues
  • Published 234 blog posts on this blog
  • Provided an endless array of content for the Museum’s social media accounts
  • Treated approximately 700* artifacts and 13 human mummies from the following Sections in the Museum: Egyptian, American, Asian, Near Eastern, Mediterranean, African, Babylonian, Physical Anthropology. *Note – many of these required 100+ hours of treatment
  • Spent 12 hours on the front page of
  • Thanks to this blog, reunited family members whose great grandparents donated our mummy Wilfreda to the Museum
  • Hosted and created programming for approximately 400 Penn Museum summer campers
  • Spoken with the media on more than twenty separate occasions, appeared in newspapers across the country in stories like this one about CT scanning a child mummy, and recorded content for the news and for educational programs – most recently for NBC News Learn
  • Featured in the Philadelphia Science Festival in 3 separate years, including a 2013 signature event and the “Be a Conservator!” program in 2017
  • Gave formal presentations about our work in the Artifact Lab at five professional conferences and eight other professional events/venues. They were all great but the 2015 Death Salon was definitely a highlight.

AND we had fun doing all of it!

Stay tuned for updates on some of our recent work, including treatments for objects that are in Ancient Egypt: From Discovery to Display and for the upcoming Mexico & Central America Gallery!