From Nes-min, an Egyptian priest who died more than 2,000 years ago, to the Maryland Mummy, created in a university basement in 1994, “Mummies of the World: The Exhibition” is billed as the largest collection ever assembled.
Visitors to the Buffalo Museum of Science, where the exhibit opened Saturday morning, also got to see exhibits highlighting the science of mummification and participate in interactive features.
“As much as I think it’s important to have reverence for the people who are here, we really encourage people to talk and interact,” said Heather Gill-Frerking, a mummy expert who is the show’s director of science and education. “I think that really makes the people – the mummies – more human.”
The stream of visitors touring the exhibit was steady.
“It’s exciting,” Gill-Frerking said. “And I have been loving watching people as they come through.”
The 40 human and animal mummies are the products of ancient embalming methods, as well as natural preservation from environmental conditions such as peat bogs or cold temperatures.
“We have an expression that inside every mummy is a story waiting to be told,” said Marcus Corwin, president of American Exhibitions, the show’s presenter. “The exhibition teaches that not all mummies are wrapped, and they came from all over the world.”
Gill-Frerking refers to the mummies as people, and she has trained museum staff to do the same.
“They’re not objects. They’re not artifacts. They’re people,” she said.
That includes three members of the Orlovits family from Vac, Hungary, who died in the 18th century from what was believed to be tuberculosis. Their naturally mummified bodies were discovered in 1994, during a church restoration.
The Maryland Mummy was created at the University of Maryland Medical School, where ancient Egyptian methods and materials were used on a 76-year-old Baltimore-area man whose body was donated for medical research.
“When we first learned about the fascinating mummies in this exhibition, we knew we had to bring the exhibit to Western New York,” said Mark Mortenson, the museum’s president.
Visitors had a wide range of reactions.
“I wanted to see what they looked like,” said 9-year-old Jayme Stone of Ransomville, who was there with her parents, Jim and Jeanette. “It’s really cool.”
The Stapleton family of West Seneca – Jim, Krissy and 2-year-old son Tommy – went to the museum together, but Jim ended up touring the exhibit alone, pushing an empty stroller.
Tommy “got scared,” so his mother took him to a play area, Jim explained.
“I have always been fascinated with history … with Egypt … mummies,” he said.
The mummy of a child whose split ribcage revealed the child’s heart is part of the Burns Collection, which was prepared for teaching anatomy in the 18th century.
“Ugh. That’s disgusting,” a youngster said after seeing it.
Similar feelings were expressed in the exhibit’s “Share Your Thoughts” book. “One of the reasons I don’t want to be a docter [sic],” was crudely printed.
News Staff Reporter Mark Sommer contributed to this report. email: firstname.lastname@example.org