Perth Museum and Art Gallery is due to undergo a transformation in the next couple of years with the development of the old City Hall into the new Perth Museum and the remodelling the present building into a dedicated Art Gallery.
This major project will allow much greater access to the city’s diverse collections, of which only 0.05 % is exhibited presently. In preparation for the move and for potential display, a project to conserve part of the collection is underway.
In an effort to engage and immerse the public in this work as much as possible, conservation officer Anna Zwagerman has curated the ‘Conservation in Action’ exhibition. The aim is to give a comprehensive overview of some of the material and ethical issues faced by conservators in caring for museum collections. Specimens with various forms of degradation are shown relating to natural ageing, pest infestation as well as problems associated with historic conservation treatments. The catastrophic flood of 1993 is referenced and the results of benign neglect of collections are also visible in the rather macabre specimen jars thirsty for fluid.
However, the central element of the exhibition is the opportunity for visitors to witness conservators at work on one of the treasures of the collection, the Perth Mummy Ta-Kr-Hb.
A temporary, glazed conservation studio forms the centre of the exhibition.
Inside visitors will be able to see conservators either undertaking certain aspects of the conservation of the mummy, the treatment of social history objects [such as the cleaning of a silver cloche presently on show] or volunteers working on the digitisation of the collections. When unoccupied, a film highlighting the work on the mummy will be shown on a screen at the back of the studio.
Will Murray of the Scottish Conservation Studio has been contracted to carry out the stabilisation of the mummy and sarcophagus with the expert guidance of Helena and Richard Jaeschke, who will spend three days with Will studying the mummy and forming a plan of action. Having undertaken a thorough investigation and with the information provided by a scan at Manchester Children’s Hospital, Will has an understanding of the condition of the human remains within the bituminous wrappings. However, the focus of this project is to stabilise the outer linens, to improve the stability and support of the mummy and to treat damages to the sarcophagus.
Whilst much of this process will be observable by the public, the highly sensitive nature of conserving human remains and the necessity for privacy to enable serious concentration dictates that certain procedures will be carried out in private. The ethical considerations regarding this treatment are paramount.
Make a trip to Perth Museum and Art Gallery to learn more about this fascinating project…on display until 19th April 2020.
Saving Ta-Kr-Hb; Conserving Perth’s Mummy