Brooklyn Museum wrote:
This mummy bandage (37.2039.23E) came to the lab to be prepared...
Mummy Bandage, Ii-em- hetep, born of Ta-remetj- hepu (37.2039.23E) before treatment in raking light.
Mummy Bandage, Ii-em- hetep, born of Ta-remetj- hepu (37.2039.23E) after treatment in raking light.
Mummy Bandage, Ii-em- hetep, born of Ta-remetj- hepu (37.2039.23E) after treatment in normal light.
This mummy bandage (37.2039.23E) came to the lab to be prepared for exhibition in the mummy chamber of the Egyptian galleries. As you can see from the image above, the fragment is fairly tattered and wrinkled from age and use. Some of these features are part of the history of the object and should be retained, others, such as the wrinkles, are distracting and make it difficult to see the drawing and read the ancient spells on this textile fragment.
How do you get wrinkles out of ancient fabric? While the fabric is over 2000 years old, and inherently is very fragile, it does retain a surprising amount of flexibility. Since fabric was not brittle, it was a good candidate for a gentle humidification treatment. The overall process is similar to using steam to get wrinkles out of clothes; however, we use a much more delicate approach, without the use of heat, for ancient materials.
To reduce the wrinkles from the mummy bandage, it is placed in a humidification sandwich. The diagram above shows how the bandage is placed beneath a layer of Gore-Tex which acts as a vapor permeable layer. A slightly dampened blotter paper is placed above the Gore-Tex; the Gore-Tex allows only water vapor (in the gas phase), as opposed to water droplets (in the liquid phase) to travel through and humidify the textile which assists in very gently relaxing the wrinkles. The textile does not get wet because no liquid water touches it. A sheet of thin Plexiglas is placed on the top of the pile to provide a gentle weight to encourage the relaxing of the wrinkles. After the textile has relaxed, the damp blotter paper and Gore-Tex are removed and replaced with a dry blotter sheet to absorb any excess water vapor and it is allowed to dry under the Plexiglas. This treatment can be carried out in small sections for a very controlled effect on which wrinkles are reduced.
The images above show the mummy bandage before treatment (top) and after treatment (center) in raking light which highlights the wrinkles. As you can see the distortions are greatly reduced, but the textile still retains its natural texture, with minor undulations, and the images and text are easier to see. The bottom image shows the mummy bandage after treatment; minor fills were carried out in areas of loss using thin Japanese paper toned to match the textile. These fills help to stabilize and protect the fragile threads along areas of loss preventing any further damage, but still allow the viewer to see which areas are original under close inspection.
Visit the Brooklyn Museum to see this object on view next month in the Egyptian galleries.
Posted by Erin Anderson