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Toledo Museum of Art again to feature two ancient Egyptian mummies

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    Jessica Buckenmeyer, a then-senior from Swanton High School, looks over one of the mummy case displays at the Toledo Museum of Art.

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    A close-up of one of two mummies on display for the 2010 exhibit.

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    The Toledo Museum of Art.

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The ancient Egyptian mummies brought to the Toledo Museum of Art more than 100 years ago by the institution’s founder will return to public view early next year.

The two mummified humans, last placed on exhibit at the museum in 2010, were purchased and brought to Toledo in 1906 by Florence and Edward Drummond Libbey, TMA’s founder, after the couple traveled Egypt.

“The Mummies: From Egypt to Toledo” opens Feb. 3 and will remain on the museum’s floor in the Canaday Gallery through May 6. The mummies will be shown in context with other Egyptian antiquities, including about 50 from the museum’s current collection, as well as objects that are on loan from other institutions, said Adam Levine, the museum’s curator of ancient art. Mr. Levine is co-curator of the show with Mike Deetsch, TMA director of education and engagement.

The mummies were on display at the museum in 2000 and again in a longer running exhibition from October, 2010 to May, 2012. Next year’s show differs from the last installation, which focused primarily on educating school-aged children about ancient religious and burial rituals of Egyptian society. This show will also address the larger category of egyptomania, a term referring to the recurring fascination with ancient Egypt in Western and European society that started during Napoleon’s era in the early 19th century.

“We thought it was time to interrogate these individuals, these human remains, and not sidestep around what they are, which is human remains, and to look at what it means to have mummies in a collection, to understand the history of how mummies came to be in the Toledo Museum of Art collection, and to understand archivally what the Toledo museum was trying to achieve …,” Mr. Levine said. “Our audience is intrigued by them and we think it is important to tell these particular stories, which is not one that has been engaged as the center of an exhibition.”

The show will feature three segments: the ancient Egyptian religion, egyptomania, and the burial practices of Egyptians.

“Really the Libbeys’ expeditions into Egypt in 1906 and again in 1924 are really that culmination of that earlier part of egyptomania,” Mr. Deetsch said. “There’s a much larger cultural significance, and reasons why they went over there, and why they weren't the only people going over to Egypt at that time collecting antiquities.

“We want to effectively tell the story of the mummy as it moves throughout time and throughout history, and how we have all of these different perceptions and interpretations of these living beings, but because of the way culturally we are looking at them, it forces us to think about them differently.”

Testing on the mummies was done about 20 years ago in Toledo — including CAT scans, X-rays and genetic and carbon-dating — to determine a little more about their origins. One, wrapped only from the chest down with its arms folded over its chest, was originally thought to be a female because of the female images on the coffin and other physical factors. DNA testing debunked that notion. Both mummies are males, researchers told The Blade.

Testing and research revealed that the partially unwrapped mummy was believed to be a young priest living somewhere close to the time of 800 B.C. The fully wrapped mummy is estimated to have lived around 100 A.D. and was thought to be a laborer who lived in both Rome and Egypt, Mr. Levine said.

In addition to Egyptian antiquities from the period, the co-curators said they hope to display clips of movie trailers and other memorabilia from earlier periods, and photos, and journals from the Libbeys’ travels.

They have also scheduled a lecture on April 19 by Salima Ikram, a professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo.

Contact Roberta Gedert at rgedert@theblade.com, 419-724-6075, or on Twitter @RoGedert.

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