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National Endowment for the Humanities supporting restoration of Earlham’s mummy

February 01, 2018

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded funding to Earlham College’s Joseph Moore Museum to begin a long-term preservation project of the Egyptian mummy in its collection.

The grant will support the design of a temperature-controlled storage case for “Lady Ta’an,” the daughter of an Egyptian priest dating back to the period between 300 B.C. and 30 B.C. Once the design is complete, the museum will seek additional funds to construct the case to ensure that future generations of visitors will also have the opportunity to encounter and learn from this ancient ancestor.

“We are fortunate to have this great object in our collection but we need to do our part to ensure that the mummy is stored in a climate-controlled setting,” says Ann-Eliza Lewis, collections manager for the museum.

Editor’s note: Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Lady Ta’an arrived on Earlham’s campus in 1889, the result of a purchase during one of former Earlham president Joseph John Mills’ international trips, at a time when many prominent museum collections were being established. It is one of just two mummies known to reside in Indiana. The other is located just miles away from campus at the Wayne County Historical Museum.

Earlham’s mummy has survived both time and catastrophe. When the museum caught fire in 1924, Lady Ta’an was one of the objects that endured, although soot from that blaze remains on the mummy’s sarcophagus.

“While it may be surprising that both of Indiana’s mummies landed in Richmond, I think it says a lot about the history of Richmond and our commitment to providing experiential learning opportunities for Earlham students and visitors alike,” Lewis says.

Today, the mummy remains one of the Museum’s core artifacts, which includes a mastodon, a planetarium, the world’s most complete giant beaver fossil skeleton, and vast ethnographic, bird, mammal, herpetology, invertebrate and paleontological collections. It is incorporated into the many educational programs available to the thousands of visitors that come to the museum each year, including field trip and summer camp participants. Many of these special events at the museum are entirely led by Earlham students as part of a growing work-study program or as a requirement of the College’s Museum Studies minor.

“I’ve been working at the museum since I arrived at Earlham,” says Lydia Evans ’18, an Environmental Studies major from Ann Arbor, Mich. “In one of the first semesters I was here I actually designed an educational outreach program based around the mummy. We looked at lots of different things related to Egyptian history but also some general information about museum collections. It was really helpful to have this large, impressive object for our visiting students to look at and engage with.”

Students who work for the museum receive expert mentorship from Lewis and Heather Lerner, museum director and assistant professor of Biology.

“I think this is one of the great things about the Joseph Moore Museum,” Lewis says. “Our students learn museum best practices first-hand by doing real programming. Everything they do has to be professional quality because we want our visitors and the community to have a high-quality experience that represents Earlham well.”

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Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success.

Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at 765-983-1256 and


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