Feb 06, 2014 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
A new item has been added to the Cazenovia Public Library Museum’s Egypt Gallery collection, that, along with a mummified falcon acquired five years ago, adds to the museum’s interpretation of funerary rites of ancient Egypt.
The completely intact alabaster canopic jar — once used to hold mummified internal organs — now sits inside the museum’s mummy case, overlooking Hen, a 2,000-year-old mummy, and directly opposite the mummified falcon representing Horus, the god of the sun, war and protection.
The jar was acquired by the library through a grant from the Central New York Community Foundation and put on display in the Egypt Gallery late last year, said Betsy Kennedy, library director.
“I think many people, especially children, have heard of canopic jars and we’re often asked about them, and now one is here and we can share it with them,” Kennedy said.
The library’s Egypt Gallery is a trove of treasures collected and sent back to Cazenovia from resident Robert Hubbard’s 1894 grand tour of Egypt. Victorian-era travelers like Hubbard typically collected numerous Egyptian artifacts as souvenirs of their travels (a practice no longer allowed), and Hubbard was no different. He collected and sent back home to Cazenovia Hen’s complete mummy and case; parts of other mummies such as masks, breastplates and sandals; ushabtis, scarabs, jewelry and even mummified animals.
Hubbard created the library museum in the current library building in 1895, and on the second floor established a “Museum of Curiosities” of his Egyptian souvenirs, along with numerous other historic and natural artifacts from across the world. The museum has remained intact ever since, although it was moved from the second floor to its current location on the first floor in 1998.
In 2008, the Central New York Community Foundation granted the library $24,500 to acquire objects needed to round out its Egyptian collection, and Jonathan Holstein, a library board member, independent curator and art dealer, began searching for items he felt the collection needed.
“I found some good examples of Egyptian jewelry, and then an important piece on my list, a wonderful mummified falcon, emblematic of the god Horus, perhaps the most ancient and significant deity in Egyptian cosmology,” Holstein said. “But that still left the major piece on my list: a canopic jar to accompany our mummy, Hen.”
Canopic jars were special containers crafted in stone, wood or ceramic used to hold the four main organs of a body that were removed during the mummification process. Each jar had the head of a different god, known as the four ‘sons of Horus’: Qebhsenuef, with the head of a falcon, who looked after the intestines; Duamutef, with the head of a jackal, who looked after the stomach; Hapy, with the head of a baboon, who looked after the lungs; and Imsety, with a human head, who looked after the liver.
Holstein was particularly interested in acquiring for the museum an Imsety canopic jar, one that was “well-modeled and carved in stone, and, of course, one the library could afford,” he said. After four years of searching, he found what he wanted in a New York auction and purchased it. And now the canopic jar is a part of the Egypt Gallery.
The jar’s purchase effectively utilized the last of the CNYCF grant. The funding also was used to acquire the falcon mummy, some jewelry and a mortar and pestal used to grind cosmetics, as well as creating informative and appropriate graphics for the cases and developing and installing the interactive video presentations that give context and historical background to the exhibition and Egyptian culture.
These previous items and gallery renovations were completed and opened to the public in 2009.
Since Hen is a later mummy and buried with his organs intact, his original burial would not have included canopic jars, Kennedy said, but the acquisition is still a major part of the museum’s interpretation of Egyptian funerary rites.
“If you haven’t been here to see Hen in the past five years, you should come down. You’ll be pleasantly surprised,” Kennedy said.
The museum not only caters to visitors from the general public, but also gives tours every year to local school children as well as other interested groups.
The Museum at Cazenovia Public Library is open during regular library hours, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
For more information visit the library website at cazenoviapubliclibrary.org or call 655-9322.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.