RICHMOND, Ind. — Indiana is well known for basketball and the Indy 500. What many may not know, is it’s also home to two mummies and both can be found in Wayne County.
One is located in the Wayne County Historical Museum. The other can be found at Earlham College in Richmond.
The mummy at Earlham was purchased by a college official in 1889 and was displayed for a short time in Indianapolis. It was moved to the Joseph Moore Museum on Earlham’s campus and is housed there today.
Earlham students have studied the mummy with x-rays and imaging. They determined by studying the density of her bones, she may have been sick or malnourished.
The students also determined from symbols painted on the sarcophagus that it is female and a princess. Her name is Ta’an.
She’s been kept in a simple glass case but several years ago it was determined to preserve the mummy officials needed a more sophisticated home for this Egyptian antiquity.
The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded Earlham College more than $4600 for design work on a temperature controlled storage case.
“We would like to create a micro environment,” said Ann-Eliza Lewis of the Joseph Moore Museum. “The humidity needs to be around 45% all the time. And we need to keep the temperature a little colder than people like it. That would be perfect.”
But to create that environment Earlham would need more than $4600. It would need $50,000, and those funds have been difficult to come by so Earlham has decided to make incremental changes.
“We have changed the lighting system so it will protect her more. We changed it to LED lights. We put in better diffusers. and we have been monitoring her temperature and humidity more closely,” said Lewis.
Ta’an is now shielded by a black moveable wall in front of her case.
“We have had visitors say they don’t want to see a dead body. They don’t want to see human remains. So the screen is there for our guests. It’s also there for her. We thought she deserved a more respectful place of rest and could offer her more privacy,” said Lewis.
The obvious question, though, is why not send Ta’an the mummy back to her country of origin, Egypt. That’s been a point of discussion among students and staff at Earlham.
“We have had that conversation a lot. Many students have suggested we do that. But the Egyptian government has not requested her. There are no treaties to do that. We feel now, she is part of the community here,” Lewis said.
To see the mummy Ta’an at the Joseph Moore Museum, you can find information on their website about hours and tours.