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
10 PREVENTIVE CONSERVATION AND EXHIBITION OF ARTIFACTS
Lucas and Rathgen both appear to have been more concerned with long-term preservation issues than was Petrie, reflecting the nature of their backgrounds as chemists working with museums, in comparison with the archaeologist who worked in the field. Awareness of environmental issues with respect to storage and display was high even in the 1920s.
Rathgen (1905), for example, pointed out the importance of exhibition cases to protect against dust and the public. He also advised that objects on exhibit should avoid direct sunlight, heat, and variations of temperature and that labels should not be attached with iron wire. Lucas (1932) discussed the fading effects of lights on textiles, paper, papyrus, and wood. Stating that even diffused daylight could be damaging, he preferred artificial light. He mentioned the effects of temperature and choices of fabrics and colored glass to minimize effects on the objects. He also pointed out the damaging effects of moisture, which was essential for the growth of bacteria and fungi as well as the action of salts and other chemical changes, such as reactions with sulfuric gas in the air. He recommended drying agents and that organic materials be kept as dry as possible, mummies in particular.
In 1932, Lucas described the beginnings of integrated pest management strategies used today, seeking to prevent access and to kill pests if objects became infested (Lucas 1932). As preventive measures, the following were recommended for insertion into exhibition cases: paradichlorbenzene, naphthalene, or thymol. Otherwise, fumigation with carbon disulfide or ethylene dichloride and carbon tetra-chloride was recommended, as were arsenic and copper compounds, but not for antique objects because they required immersion in a water solution. Rathgen quoted a 1904 lecture by Bolle regarding destruction of “animal enemies” of organic materials with carbon bisulfide, which had no effect on colors if perfectly dry (Rathgen 1905).
To destroy woodworms in an Egyptian coffin, a benzene-saturated atmosphere was used, or naphthalene, heated to sublimate. Aqueous potassium arsenite, corrosive sublimate, or petroleum could also be poured into holes and openings in the wood to eliminate larvae (Rathgen 1905).