From the Archives 31 — June 2018

by Sebastián Encina, Collections Manager

In June we celebrate Father’s Day, a day to honor all fathers. It is often a day for picnics and barbecues and gifts and bad ties.

Though we often speak of Kelsey Museum namesake Francis W. Kelsey in terms of his professional career — scholar, professor of Latin and supporter of archaeology, music aficionado, international traveler, politically connected and a major influence on campus — he was also a doting father. Letters in the archives of the Bentley Historical Library show that he often wrote to his children while overseas, encouraging them in their studies and hobbies. These letters back and forth speak of a loving relationship between Kelsey and his children. He often wrote to them in Latin, referring to himself as Pater.

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Francis Kelsey’s children: Ruth, Charlotte, and Easton.

Of Kelsey’s three children, we know the least about his eldest, Ruth (born 1894). She does not make much of an appearance in the Kelsey Museum archives, though she does factor in the archives at the Bentley Library.

Charlotte, born in 1897, may be a bit more familiar to those who have followed this blog. It is Charlotte who starred in the Michigan Classical Club’s 1917 production of Euripides’ Iphigenia in Tauris while a student at U-M. Photographer George Swain captured her performance in a series of glass slides — some that he hand-colored (see “From the Archives” for October 2015).

Kelsey’s youngest, Easton (born 1904), has a major presence in the Kelsey Museum archives. He often accompanied his father on trips abroad and there are a good number of photographs of him while traveling. Easton was a photographer in his own right and a collection of his photographs is catalogued in the Kelsey archives (identified with the designation “KK”).

For this month’s “From the Archives,” in honor of Father’s Day, we present Francis W. Kelsey in a new light, not as a scholar and founder of a museum, but as a loving father to three wonderful children.

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To see additional photos and to read more about the Kelsey family, visit the “Family Man” portion of the online exhibition A Man of Many Parts: The Life and Legacy of Francis Willey Kelsey.

June’s News from the Conservation Lab: Conference Crunch Time!

by Caroline Roberts, Conservator

Greetings, earthlings! Suzanne and I have just returned from two professional conference journeys — and boy, are we tired! The conference I attended was at the Getty Villa, located in beautiful Pacific Palisades, California. The hilltop replica Villa of the Papyri and ocean view beyond served as scenic backdrops for a conference focused on the study of Roman Egyptian mummy portraits. (Sadly, I have no photos from the Villa itself, only the one below from the Getty Center — also beautiful!) The talks were wide-ranging, from discussions about portrait workshops and artists’ materials to imaging techniques and binding media analyses. My own talk explored changes in the green pigment palette during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods, while looking at a group of painted shrouds as case studies. The conference brought together mummy portrait enthusiasts from around the world, and planted all kinds of new research ideas in my head. If you are wondering, How can I get my hands on the post prints? — fear not! They’ll be published online in fall 2019.

Suzanne attended the American Institute for Conservation’s 46th Annual Meeting in Houston, Texas. I say attended, but really, Suzanne was program chair and in effect the mastermind behind the conference’s academic program. The theme this year, Material Matters, explored the impact of material studies and issues of materiality on conservation principles and practice. One member-proposed session featured papers that discussed the preservation of cultural heritage through the transfer and transmission of materials and information from one medium to another. In a joint objects-architecture specialty group session Suzanne gave a talk about the preservation of ancient graffiti at El Kurru, Sudan. Suzanne’s research has also just been published in the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, which you can read here. I think we both agree that while a conference is a great opportunity to share research and catch up with colleagues, nothing beats a good old-fashioned peer-reviewed publication for getting new information out there.

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One of many ocean views from the Getty Center.
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Amaris Sturm and Suzanne Davis at the conservation graduate programs reunion in Houston.

 

Ugly Object of the Month — June 2018

by Caroline Roberts, Conservator

This month’s Ugly Object will be featured in the new Kelsey in Focus case, a rotating exhibit space that will highlight some of the Kelsey Museum’s hidden collections. The first In Focus installment features a trio of ceramic duck figurines from Seleucia on the Tigris, a site just under 20 miles south of modern Baghdad that was excavated by the University of Michigan between 1927 and 1937. The duck fragment that’s made our list bears a remarkable likeness to the real thing; I live near a creek and as such share my habitat with a number of these aquatic birds, so I consider myself a fair judge of the high quality of this remaining fragment of duck. Even so, back when it was made this was not a one-of-a-kind object. It was created from a two-part mold, evidenced by a seam that bisects the duck’s face. Even more interesting: one of the duck’s nostrils is “clogged,” seemingly because it was not fully scooped out like the other nostril after casting. These little artifacts of the manufacturing process are fascinating, as is the question of how many of these ducks were made and what they were used for. Look closely and you can see traces of paint in the duck’s eyes and nostrils, and an ancient repair adhesive on its neck. Someone clearly valued this duck enough to stick its head back on when it broke.

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Head of a ceramic duck figure from Seleucia on the Tigris, Iraq. 2nd century AD. KM 2018.1.104.

Come visit the Kelsey in Focus case on the first floor of the Upjohn exhibit wing, next to the elevator.