Standing up a mummy coffin

As discussed in our February 2015 Behind The Scenes update, the Egyptian room in the Nicholson Museum is currently undergoing a major renovation ahead of the Museum’s new exhibition Death Magic, opening 21 May 2015.

Part of the new approach for Death Magic is exploring different display methods for some of the collections’ oldest items, including standing up the coffins of Meruah (NMR.27) and Padiashaikhet (NMR.28). The Nicholson Museum has displayed the coffins horizontally since they were donated in 1860 by founder Sir Charles Nicholson. By displaying them upright not only will visitors, students and scholars for the first time be able to get 360 degree visibility, this display method will also create an engaging experience for visitors as they will literally be face to face with the anthropomorphic coffins.

To safely stand the coffins up we need to create a structure to support and hold together the lid and base. For this project we engaged an external contractor. After careful consideration of conservation, weight and visibility he has created a steel cross-like structure that will sit between the two parts internally. Individual brackets to support and hold the parts together will then be attached to the main structure and be minimally visible when installed. The steel structure and brackets will ensure the safety of the objects when displayed inside their purpose built case.

Once the basic structure was made we did a test installation to finalize measurements and make adjustments to the brackets. Firstly four staff stood the coffin trough upright. Then the steel structure was put in place and secured to the coffin trough before the coffin lid was moved into position in front of the base and the bracketing attached. Once the two parts of the coffin were in place they were surprisingly stable without too many adjustments necessary.

Completing a test run such as this is essential to not only ensure the viability and security of the mount structure but also to give us an opportunity to work out the process and staff roles for when we install coffins in their new showcases.