Vidisco Brings Mummies to Life

By Rachel Lieberman

 

 

While Egyptian animal mummies have been dead for thousands of years, they still have a fascinating story to tell. The Brooklyn Museum has one of the finest collections of ancient Egyptian art in the world and is constantly conducting scientific research on its rare and unique objects in the museum’s Conservation Laboratory.

 

X-ray inspection of art - mummy

Mummy of a cat wrapped in linen with elaborately molded head with painted details in red and black

 

The Conservation Laboratory at the Museum, under the direction of Mr. Ken Moser Chief Conservator and Vice Deputy for Collections, uses state-of-the-art digital X-ray equipment designed and manufactured by Vidisco to reveal the mummy’s layers and understand the origins and practice of animal mummification in ancient Egypt: The mummification of animals indicates their significance in ancient Egypt as sacred beings, religious icons and votive offerings, as well as pets and sources of food. In fact, thousands of animals were embalmed and elaborately wrapped in order to be buried annually in animal catacombs that were established for this purpose. Advanced equipment like digital X-ray systems help to determine various key factors such as the type, gender and age of the mummified animal, and even the cause of death.

 

He notes: “In the past, we used plastic negatives to X-ray the items, which involved ongoing expenses, slow development processes and sometimes even repeated shoots.  Then we were introduced to Vidisco’s Fox-Rayzor digital portable X-ray system; there is really no comparison to the old method. The new digital radiography system is both material and time efficient. The amount of details possible and the flexibility are extraordinary, and the ability to then manipulate these images provides us with a completely new examination tool.”

 

Admittedly, the digital X-ray system took getting used to as there is a learning curve and the sensitivity is far greater than the conservators were used to, but once the effects of mA and time were understood, it became relatively easy to carry out testing for optimal parameters for each artifact. Ken adds: “It is fabulous that the results are immediate and that the parameters can be changed so easily for optimal results.”

 

Convenience is the name of the game when it comes to Vidisco portable digital X-ray equipment:  “The system is compact, and it is easily stored and retrieved when we need it.  The Fox-Rayzor’s hardware and software can be set up in a short time.”

 

Knitting software makes combining images easy. The images are saved and linked to the museum’s database, storing conservation records and documentation of the collection.

 

Ken sums it up - I think the Vidisco system is an extremely useful tool, opening up completely new possibilities.

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