Sunday, July 10, 2016

Brooklyn Museum

More on the coffin of Pa-seba-khai-en-ipet

Brooklyn Museum wrote:
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the technical study of the...

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the technical study of the coffin Pa-seba-khai-en-ipet, which came to the Conservation lab in preparation for out-going loan. In addition to documentation and analysis, we needed make sure the coffin was stable enough to travel. We started by doing a very careful inspection of the coffin's structure and surface, noting particularly fragile or unstable areas and old restorations. 

In the early-mid 20th century, a plaster-like material was used to fill losses in the wood. Although this was a well-intentioned intervention at the time, over the years this material had started to crack, putting pressure on the fragile wood and adding significant weight to the coffin. We decided to remove as much of this fill material as we could, which helped not only to stabilize the coffin but also revealed really interesting structural details, like the mortise and tenon join below, which had been previous obscured by the plaster.

Once the plaster was removed, we consolidated areas of powdery wood and flaking paint and then had a discussion with curatorial staff about how many of the numerous losses in the coffin wood and surface layers to fill, many of which had been previously filled with plaster. Sometimes, when appropriate, conservators will fill and aesthetically reintegrate as many losses and cracks as possible. However, particularly with archaeological objects, we often decide to leave the object in a partially fragmentary state—stabilizing the object while also allowing the object's condition to reveal its (often very long) history. With the coffin of Pa-seba-khai-en-ipet, we decided only to fill gaps and losses that were necessary for the stability of the wooden structure or surface layers. This not only improves the condition of the coffin for travel but also allows viewers to see all of the interesting technical details described in my previous post

Because the wood of the coffin itself is relatively weak, we chose a very soft fill material rather than plaster or other hard materials: acid-free tissue surfaced with a bulked cellulose ether adhesive. The fills were then toned to match the surrounding surface with tinted Japanese tissue. This work is almost finished, and then the coffin will be ready to travel!

Posted by Anna Serotta