THE ANCIENT EGYPTIAN COLLECTION AT THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOSTON. PART 1, A REVIEW OF TREATMENTS IN THE FIELD AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES
SUSANNE GÄNSICKE, PAMELA HATCHFIELD, ABIGAIL HYKIN, MARIE SVOBODA, & C. MEI-AN TSU
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), houses an extensive collection of more than 60,000 ancient Egyptian and Sudanese artifacts, most of which were excavated by the Harvard University–Museum of Fine Arts Expedition from 1905 to 1942. Only a small percentage of this material is on view. Much of the collection remains in storage and is only now being unpacked, surveyed, and accessioned.
This article (Part 1), written in conjunction with a second part (Part 2, Gänsicke et al. 2003), covers the formation of the Egyptian Collection and its early conservation history in the field. Part 2 discusses subsequent conservation at the MFA. Both articles are divided into subsections that address separately metals, ceramics, stone, wood, and organic materials. In writing these articles, an extensive search was conducted to create a database of previous treatments by surveying all existing hard copies of conservation reports as well as dig diaries, excavation publications, early issues of the Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA Bulletin), photographs, and unpublished internal documents and letters. We should note, however, that the documentation for field treatments and for treatments carried out at the museum before around 1970 is not very thorough, producing gaps in our knowledge about exactly what was done to specific artifacts. For Part 1 we have also drawn on published information that could well include treatment procedures utilized on some of the collection, although these publications do not specifically refer to the MFA collections. Often, only analytical work allowed us to identify treatment materials and techniques and, thus, has advanced our understanding of some of the early (undocumented or incompletely documented) treatments. The collected data for this specific collection are intended as a “conservation catalog” rather than as a commentary on the development of conservation methods and materials. Appendix 1 in Part 2 summarizes the materials mentioned in both articles and lists approximate dates for their use.