The Collegian
Tuesday, May 17, 2022

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Two students work to preserve 3,000-year-old mummy

Two University of Richmond students are working to conserve 3,000-year-old mummy Ti-Ameny-Net and its coffin, which will be displayed in North Court's Stuart L. Wheeler Gallery of the Ancient World when the conservation is complete.

Senior Janelle Sadarananda and junior Mimi Hiebert are combining their academic interests and internship experiences to complete an independent study in which they are working to improve and stabilize Ti-Ameny-Net's mummy and coffin against further deterioration.

Ti-Ameny-Net's mummy has been a part of Richmond's campus community and campus folklore since 1876 when a professor brought it back from Egypt.

The work that Sadarananda and Hiebert are doing on the mummy, nicknamed "Tia," and its coffin, will allow the history of the objects to be preserved for as long as possible. The practice of conservation differs from restoring and preserving, Hiebert said. Preserving entails making the object look like new, while restoring is keeping the object as it is, Hiebert said.

"We are combining the two," Hiebert said. "We want it to be stabilized so you can still see what it is supposed to look like without erasing the history."

Conservation efforts on the mummy included swabbing Tia's exposed skin with ethanol to remove salt build-up, which is a result of the mummification process. Re-applying loose bandages and vacuuming the mummy to remove dirt are also components of conserving the mummy, Sadarananda said.

Conservation of the coffin, which the pair is working on currently, consists of experimenting with different combinations of materials to fill cracks in the wood and paint. After the missing pieces are re-adhered, Sadarananda said, they will swab the entire coffin with ethanol to clean the surface.

The two began meeting last semester with their faculty adviser, Elizabeth Baughan, to discuss conservation methods and ethics. For the first week and half of this semester, they worked on the mummy itself before moving on to its coffin, Sadarananda said.

"It's an impressive difference," Hiebert said in reference to Ti-Ameny-Net's transformation as a result of their conservation efforts.

Sadarananda is a classical civilization major with minors in archeology and women, gender and sexuality studies. She has summer field experience in archeology and conservation, she said.

Hiebert's academic background in chemistry is different from, yet complimentary to Sadarananda's. Hiebert said there was a significant science component to conservation projects.

Sadarananda and Hiebert credit Richmond's small size and liberal-arts focus for the opportunity to embark on such a unique project, Hiebert said.

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Working on a mummy that is 3,000 years old is not usual for an undergraduate, Hiebert said. "Sometimes professional conservationists don't even get this chance. It's a really cool -- kind of strange -- opportunity."

Sadarananda and Hiebert work on the coffin eight to 10 hours every Friday, Hiebert said.

They hope to be finished by the end of this semester with the coffin ready to be displayed beside Tia in North Court, they said.

Contact reporter Molly Gentzel at molly.gentzel@richmond.edu

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