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Friday, July 15, 2016

Brooklyn Museum

The Brooklyn Museum’s papyrus collection

Brooklyn Museum wrote:
The Brooklyn Museum’s papyrus collection comprises nearly three...
Treating a papyrus fragment from the University of Michigan collection.

Making papyrus sheets at Out of Hand Papermaking Studio, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Brooklyn Museum’s papyrus collection comprises nearly three hundred individual documents dating from ca. 2200 BCE through 1000 CE and includes examples of Egyptian, Greek, Demotic, and Coptic papyri as well as fragments of Latin, Arabic, and Pahlavi. Some of the papyri are very small fragments; others remain intact as rolls. Due to its age, papyrus is extremely fragile and typically exhibits condition issues such as brittleness, fractures, misaligned fibers, and detached and misplaced fragments. Some papyri were stabilized on-site during archaeological excavation, often with materials that have caused additional damage over time. Many of these objects require extensive conservation treatment before they can be exhibited or accessed by scholars.

With support from the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works, I recently attended a two-week seminar on papyrus conservation hosted by the Papyrology Collection at the University of Michigan. Directed by Conservation Librarian and Book Conservator Marieka Kaye, the seminar was attended by conservators and papyrologists from various institutions including the Library of Congress, the University of Cambridge, the Egyptian Museum, and the University of Paris-Sorbonne. The intensive, hands-on style of the seminar provided an in-depth overview of papyrus conservation with a focus on the theory and methodology behind current conservation techniques, new analytical methods, and storage solutions. 

With approximately 18,000 individual fragments, the University of Michigan holds one of the largest papyri collections in North America, affording us the opportunity to examine and treat papyri of various formats with a range of condition issues. Guest lecturers included book conservator Julia Miller, who shared her knowledge of early codices, and Professor of Egyptology Terry Wilfong, who provided an overview of Egyptian script systems. We also toured the galleries and storage facilities at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology and visited Out of Hand Papermaking Studio, where we discussed theories of papyrus manufacture and made our own sheets of papyrus with local papermaker Karen O’Neal. 

The seminar was extremely informative and will be invaluable as we prepare to begin work on several complex papyrus projects here at the Brooklyn Museum. Check back for more details!

Posted by Elyse Driscoll 

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