MARCH 24, 1995

University of Michigan's Kelsey Museum presents "Preserving Eternity," an exhibition of artifacts relating to Egyptian mummification

The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology presents its newest exhibition Preserving Eternity: Modern Goals, Ancient Intentions. This exhibition on Egyptian funerary arts, which opens on April 7th, and runs through August 1995, details the differences and similarities between preservation methods in Dynastic Egypt and conservation techniques used in the present day museum. It showcases artifacts from the Kelsey Museum collection that Visiting Assistant Curators Janet Richards and Terry Wilfong believe have been underrepresented in previous exhibitions. The evening of April 7th will also feature the lecture "Funerary Arts in Ancient Egypt" by Emily Teeter, Assistant Curator of the Oriental Institute of Chicago. This lecture will be held in Angell Hall, Auditorium C at 7:30 p.m.

Preserving Eternity will present many of the Kelsey's more popular artifacts from past exhibitions, as well as objects that have never before been on display. These pieces, all from the Dynastic period of ancient Egypt (c.a. 3000 - 300 B.C.), include animal mummies (cat, bird, dog, baboon), burial amulets, canopic jars (used to store the important bodily organs of the deceased), and the coffin of Djheutymose (ja-HOO-tee-mose). Djheutymose was a man of the early 6th century B.C., a "priest of Horus," and "priest of the Golden One." Its appearance during Preserving Eternity will mark the first time that this intricately painted coffin has been shown on the U-M Ann Arbor campus. The exhibition Preserving Eternity will explore previously unsuspected links between the Djheutymose coffin and other Egyptian objects in the Kelsey Museum collection.

According to Dr. Janet Richards, the objects to be displayed show "an intersection of intense concern with preservation -- a concern modern museums and ancient Egyptians shared." The Egyptians wished to extend their own lives beyond death, while museums wish to extend the life of cultural remains. Because this belief in the afterlife permeated the lives of all Egyptians, the exhibition shows not only the traditional artifacts excavated from the tombs of the socially elite, but also those from tombs of the lower classes. Studying the ancient Egyptians' method of preserving the dead helps to see how this process has developed into what could now be considered museum preservation. This approach gives rare insight into the impetus behind the present concern with preserving the past.

Dr. Terry Wilfong believes that many of the items featured in Preserving Eternity have been overshadowed by the impressive Greek and Roman collections at the Kelsey: "We started looking through the Kelsey's collection in storage and found all these amazing Egyptian artifacts." The vast array of artifacts allowed the curators to choose for this exhibition not only objects of interest to Egyptologists but objects that would interest everyone, young and old alike.

Janet Richards received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in Anthropology and Oriental Studies. She has taught at Mount Holyoke College and is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor in the History of Art Department at U-M. Terry Wilfong comes to U-M from the University of Chicago, where he received his Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. He is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the U-M Department of Near Eastern Studies. Preserving Eternity is their first exhibition as Visiting Assistant Curators at the Kelsey Museum.