Friday night Joanie and Pat treated us to a night at the museum. The impetus for this outing was the opening of the Science Center’s new “Lost Egypt” exhibit. This exhibit is composed of about half modern and ancient materials. It has an interactive sculpture of a kneeling camel set before a desert backdrop that can be climbed on for a great photo. Unfortunately dear readers, I couldn’t convince Anne to cooperate, so there will be no picture for this blog. The exhibit includes one mummy, nicknamed Annie. Annie was a girl, 16-18 years-old, who lived in ancient Egypt around 220 BC.
The mummy mystery alluded to in this post’s title began when I asked a young docent, if this was the same mummy that I had seen almost thirty years ago, when what eventually became part of today’s Saint Louis Science Center was then the Museum of Science and Natural History in Clayton’s Oak Knoll Park. Oak Knoll Park was in easy walking distance from our house and when the boys were small, we would walk over there together. I remembered seeing a mummy exhibited there in the 1980s.
The docent didn’t look old enough to have been alive in the 1980s let alone be working at a museum, but she knew that this exhibited mummy couldn’t have been that, because it is on loan from Philadelphia for this show. She knew of one mummy that the Science Center does own, a 7 or 8 month-old boy who is currently on display at the entrance to the Omnimax Theater. She called for backup. A somewhat older curator appeared. I told her where and when I had seen the mummy and then described that exhibit. The sarcophagus was in a glass display case at eye level, while the mummy itself was located directly below the case, on the floor below and could only be viewed through a Plexiglas window in the floor. This curator was stumped too, so she called for backup again. The next curator was as mystified as the rest, but took my name and email, so that someone even more knowledgeable could contact me later.
I later related this story to Anne, who thought that I had misremembered some Chicago exhibit. I knew that I wasn’t, so this morning I jumped on the Internet to do some research. The Internet is a wonderful thing, but it does have its limitations. One of them is that it didn’t really exist in the 1980s, at least not in its current form. I did learn that Washington University owns three mummies, two of which are on currently on loan to the Saint Louis Art Museum. One of these is considered a rare find. One of the three mummies was briefly lent to the University of Missouri, Columbia in the 1980s. So, I was able to establish that there were multiple mummies moving around town during the time in question. I finally found a PDF that described the so-called Mormon Mummies, New Light on Old Egyptiana: Mormon Mummies, written by Stanley B. Kimball in 1984. These are mummies that passed through Saint Louis around the time of the Civil War. They were soon sold and moved to Chicago. This treatise went on to describe more of Saint Louis’ mummy history, page 77:
Although several museums operated in Saint Louis after the [Mormon Mummy] collection of the Saint Louis Museum was sold in 1863, there is no evidence of Egyptian antiquities in the city until about 1896 when Charles Parsons donated two mummies to Washington University. One is currently housed at the Saint Louis Museum of Science and the other is located at the Saint Louis Art Museum. In 1928 Washington University acquired a third mummy from the Smithsonian Institution, currently on exhibit in the Museum of the Department of Anatomy of Medicine of Washington University.
Mystery of the mummy solved. I feel so vindicated. Thank you Google.