In Part 4 of this special Australian Museum blog series, Melissa Holt outlines the treatment of the final Egyptian cartonnage mask and wraps up the series!
Welcome to the final blog of this 4-part series, where I take you through the treatment process of four cartonnage objects. In previous blogs, I explained what the goals and plans were for the conservation treatment and walked you through the steps for the treatment of E019001 and E021583-006. In this blog I will show you the treatment for the mask E019000.
Step 1: Flip it
Before starting any treatment, a treatment plan needs to be set out. For E019000, more thought needed to put into the positioning of the object before the treatment could begin. Because this mask has both a front and back panel, unlike the previous two, it meant that I could not just flip the mask on to its front. It meant that the best access was from underneath the mask and so it needed to sit securely and safely upside down. To do this I created a handling tray with padded curved foam blocks that would hold the mask in place. I weighted down one of the blocks to hold it in place, in case I needed better access to a particular side of the mask. With that done, I could now begin the treatment.
Step 2: The power of magnets
Like E019001, this mask has evidence of modern repairs also, but the repairs have not deteriorated as badly. However, there were areas where the modern paper had lifted similarly to E0190001. To flatten these areas, methylcellulose and Japanese tissue paper was inserted between the paper and the linen. Magnets were then placed between bits of foam to weigh the area in place. The magnets were able gently bring the paper back together without being too strong. They were also able to stay in place in tricky areas instead of using several ties to hold a weight in place.
Magnets were also used to realign the edges of a large split in the cartonnage back together. Methylcellulose was applied into the inside of the crack to bring the edges together and then a Japanese tissue backing was added to create strength. Magnets were used to hold the edges in place whilst the glue dried. This worked successfully to bring the edges together neatly and gently. This mask also needed some consolidation, but after all the filling and flattening the treatment was complete.
Step 3: New housing for all
With the treatment done, the final step was to give them each a new custom built storage box. Working with the AM Preparation team a new custom stand was designed to sit inside an archival storage box. Once the stand was built, I was able to carve out of a hard foam an insert that the mask would sit on. This was then covered in a softer foam and Parsilk to create a cushion for the masks. This cushion was then placed inside the mask and then on top of the detachable top of the stand. We designed the top portion of the stand to be detachable for easier handling and so if they go on display, they can stay on their cushion. The boxes all have a drop side so that when the lid comes off the mask can slide out, rather than lifting it out of the box. These new boxes and mounts will ensure that the masks will not deteriorate further and that they will be able to be safely transported and placed on displace in the future.
Thank you to everyone who has joined me for this blog series. I hope you have enjoyed it and have been able to learn a bit more about how we undertake conservation treatments here at the Australian Museum.
Melissa Holt, Project Conservator, Collection Care and Conservation, Australian Museum.
- Part 1: The Faces of Mummies - https://australian.museum/blog/amri-news/the-faces-of-mummies/
- Part 2: Head to toes: the treatment undergoes! - https://australian.museum/blog/amri-news/head-to-toes-the-treatment-undergoes/
- Part 3: The before and after: from tip to toe! - https://australian.museum/blog/amri-news/the-before-and-after-from-tip-to-toe/
- Alawneh, F., Elserogy, A. R. and Almasri, E. (2018) “Using Interdisciplinary Studies and Analyses in the Conservation of Greco-Roman Cartonnage”, Conservation Science in Cultural Heritage, Vol. 18(1), pp. 219–238. DOI: https://doi.org/10.6092/issn.1973-9494/9236
- Brown, J.P., Leveque, M. and Nau, M. (2017) “Treatment of Two Badly Damaged Egyptian Mummies and Associated Coffins”, Objects Specialty Group Post prints, Vol. 24, pp. 293-318. http://29aqcgc1xnh17fykn459grmc-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/osg-postprints/wp-content/uploads/sites/8/2020/03/osg024-016.pdf
- Leveque, M. 2021, Part 1 Cartonnage Historic and Technical Notes.
- Schellmann, N. 2009, “Animal Glues – their adhesive properties, longevity and suggested use for repairing taxidermy specimens”, NatSCA News. 36‐40.
- Scott, D.A., Swartz Dodd, L., Furihata, J., Tanimoto, S., Keeney, J., Schilling, M.R. and Cowan, E. (2004) “An Ancient Egyptian Cartonnage Broad Collar: Technical Examination of Pigments and Binding Media”, Studies in Conservation, Vol. 49(3), pp. 177-192, Taylor & Francis Ltd.
I would like to acknowledge Heather Bleechmore for her support and guidance through this treatment, as well as Stan Florek and Vanessa Finney. I would also like to acknowledge Mimi Leveque for providing me with her personal notes and expertise on cartonnage. I would also like to acknowledge Meagan Warwick for her guidance in writing my blog. Thank you to Clare Kim also, for performing the FTIR analysis on the masks and to Kyra Kim for taking some of the photos. Thank you to David Teer for building the new stands for the masks.