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Progress of the work: August 2005

 

Figure of OsirisThis month Christina Rozeik, our conservation intern, has been conserving a small statue of Osiris for display in the new galleries. 

The statue is made from dried mud and has a painted face and decoration. It was found at Abydos by the Egypt Exploration Fund and given to the museum in 1901.

 

It was stuck together after excavation using animal glue, with cotton wool to fill any gaps. As this close-up shows, these repairs are very messy! The mud is also very crumbly and fragile and needs to be strengthened before the statue is suitable for display. The best way to remove animal glue from an object is to dissolve the glue in hot water, but this would mean that the mud statue would also dissolve! After a lot of thought, Christina has developed a new treatment method using cyclododecane as a to consolidate the mud temporarily.&nbsp">Cyclododecane is a waxy material which slowly sublimates at room temperature (that is, it turns from a solid directly into a gas). This is very useful when a conservator wants to protect part of an object from water, or to hold a fragile surface in place temporarily. 

Before beginning this treatment, Christina has made some replica mud figures which can be used for testing the materials and techniques. This picture shows a piece of mud which has had some cyclododecane applied to it. Less than three weeks later, all the cyclododecane has disappeared, leaving no residue.

 

Consolidating the Osiris statueTom, our Canadian intern is working on examination and conservation of Theban tomb paintings. These are two fragments from a tomb at Thebes, now identified as Theban Tomb no. 172, belonging to a man called Montuiywy. The pieces were cut from the tomb wall at some time in the past and given to the Fitzwilliam in 1913. Each had been encased in plaster and supported by a wooden box. The Goddess of the West scene had at some time been removed from the box and in the 1960s was plastered into a display panel. 

 

Close-up of part of a dog's coffinMeanwhile, conservator Lucy Skinner has spent part of this month examining and treating a small wooden coffin from Beni Hassan. It was discovered by Garstang in tomb 17 at the site and it belonged to a dog called Heb. 

There are many splinters from the wooden planks which have split and become detached from the surface. Lucy has had to reattach them using Paraloid B72 (a conservation grade adhesive). 

The wooden coffin of a dog placed on a perspex base, E.47.1902On 25 August we run a Meet the Antiquities 'Conservation Special' for the public to come and have a closer a look at some of the examination and treatment that is underway. (The photograph shows Christina and Tom explaining some of the work they are involved in at present.) 

Towards the end of August we are very fortunate to be joined for five weeks by Julie Unruh, a conservator from the USA who has considerable experience of the conservation of ancient Egyptian objects. It is starting to get a bit crowded in the conservation laboratory!