Wrapped! Father & Son Mummy Reunion at Berkshire Museum
“Mummies represent the potential for people to be immortal,” says Dr. Jonathan Elias, an Egyptologist and curator of the new exhibition Wrapped! Search for the Essential Mummy at the Berkshire Musem (June 19 - October 31. ) As he installed the exhibition featuring the museum’s own 2,300-year old mummy known as Pahat (one of hundreds of mummies unearthed in the tombs of Akhmim, Egypt, in the 19th century), Dr. Elias explained that mummies are more than the preserved flesh and bones of ancient Egyptians but also vessels for their souls. “When the Egyptians eviscerated and embalmed the body with resin, they removed all the organs, including the brain, but they left the heart,” says Dr. Elias. “They believed that the heart is the seed of the intellect and that the spirit of the individual is in the heart. That is where immortality lives.” He pauses and then shares some wisdom he’s gleaned from his studies. “That is why we need to be more heart focused and less brain focused,” he says.
Dr. Elias, who runs the Akhmim Mummy Studies Consortium in Harrisburg, PA, has an intimate relationship with mummies, though he has never unwrapped one. “They used to do that in the 19th century—people would have unwrapping parties, and our exhibit documents that phenomenon,” he explains. “But it is the wrong thing to do in every way.” Nevertheless, he has looked inside mummies using non-invasive CT scan technology (right) to find scars and amulets and other signs of life. “Pahat has only left the Berkshire Museum three times since 1903, and that was so he could be scanned at Berkshire Medical Center,” notes Stuart Chase, executive director of the Berkshire Museum. “One of the highlights of the exhibit is that you will be able to view a virtual, 3-D animated fly through of Pahat’s body, unpeeling layers of linen until you get down to the bone.” The exhibit also features some 200 ancient Egyptian artifacts as well as mummified animals.
Summer 2010 at the Berkshire Museum . . .
Nancy Graves: Journey to North Africa
(June 19 - October 31)
A multimedia show of camel-inspired work by Nancy Graves, the Pittsfied native (1939 -1995) who was the first woman to have a solo retrospective at New York’s Whitney Museum and whose father was the Berkshire Museum’s assistant director for many years.
The Little Cinema
All summer long, the museum’s audiorium shows indie and art-house movies on an old-fashioned projector as it has for the past 60 years. The Academy Award-winning foreign language film The Secret in Their Eyes runs June 18 - 24.
You will also be able to see Pahat’s long-lost son, Shep-en-Min. “It’s a father and son reunion,” says Dr. Elias, who discovered the mummy known as Shep-en-Min only 75 miles away at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College. He believes it is the first such mummy family reunion in North America. To bring the mummies back to life as much as possible, Dr. Elias commissioned forensic artists to produce more than a dozen plaster busts (above) based on CT scans of mummies he has studied over the years. “These are people who knew each other,” says Dr. Elias, who is obviously pleased to be a handmaiden to immortality. “You will see a community of Egyptians from the same time and place brought together again.”
Wrapped! Search for the Essential Mummy
June 19 - October 31
39 South Street, Pittsfield MA; 413.443.7171
Opening Day Schedule: Saturday June 19
10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Mummy Facts Scavenger Hunt
12 - 3 p.m. Live Camels on the Lawn (weather permitting)
1 -3 p.m. Hieriglyphic crafts and face painting
1:30 p.m. Snake charmer Kevin McCurley shows off cobras and pythons
2:30 - 3:30 p.m. Dr. Elias’s talk on “The Origins of Pahat”
3 - 5 p.m. Egyptian refreshments in the Crane Room