Many of us are working in a variety of ways towards the new Egypt and Archaeology galleries, due to open in 2012. Working through the stores I have found small number of objects that have become damaged or have been previously conserved, and the earlier treatment has not stood the test of time. The Curatorial Assistant for Humanities at the Museum, Dr Susan Martin, has been working to repair some of the damaged objects. Here she describes the work she has done:
The shabtis had all been repaired previously and had broken again either in the same place or at a point adjacent to the first break.
The old adhesive, which had discoloured, needed to be cleaned from the break-edges as much as was possible without losing loose and crumbing parts of the shabtis.
In each case the adhesives were tested and they were all found to be soluble in water – this meant that they could be softened by applying damp cotton wool to the break-edges. The softened adhesive was carefully removed using a wooden cocktail stick.
Once cleaned the shabtis were put back together again using the adhesive Paraloid B72. The shabtis were supported in a sand-tray for 24 hours while the adhesive cured.
The gaps were filled with a mixture of Paraloid B72 and glass micro-balloons. This mixture created a fill that mimicked the strength of the material that the shabtis were made from. By filling the gaps in this way rather than with plaster, which would be much harder, a situation where new breaks occur at different points and new damage and losses are experienced should be avoided – if the shabtis were to break again it is likely to be at the point of these new fills.
The new fills were then touched up with acrylic paints so that their colour blended with the rest of the shabti.
Glass bowl and bottle
These two objects had been previously repaired – the adhesive used in these repairs had failed.
The old adhesive could be easily removed from the break-edges using a scalpel.
Both objects were put back together using Paraloid B72 – the various parts needed to be supported for 24 hours while the adhesive cured. Any excess adhesive was then
removed using a scalpel.