If Richmond, Indiana, seems an unlikely place to get a peek at ancient Egypt, think again.
Actually, Harlan’s museum has one of the mummies. The other is a five-minute drive away, at the Joseph Moore Museum on the campus of Earlham College.
How the two ended up in Indiana goes back to an era when artifacts from distant cultures were collected as rarities and – in the case of Richmond’s mummies – as educational tools.
“Joseph Moore always said it was better to see and touch a thing than to read about it,” said Ann-Eliza Lewis, collections manager at the museum bearing his name. The mummy there was purchased from a Cairo government museum by Earlham President J.J. Mills in 1889. It was added to the collection started by Moore (Mills’ predecessor as president of the college) and has been on display pretty much ever since.
It, too, has been on nearly continuous display.
A lot of museum visitors are parents and grandparents who have come to show the mummy to the next generation, Harlan said. “It’s the thing they remember seeing as a child coming through here,” so they want to extend that experience to their own kids and grandkids. “They’re fascinated with it,” said Harlan.
“Our mummy has more questions than answers,” she said.
In contrast, the WCHM mummy might be one of the most documented in the region, according to Harlan. That’s thanks in large part to Bonnie McClelland Sampsell, Ph.D., a Richmond native who began studying Egyptology in retirement and has led research efforts on the mummy since 2006 and made annual visits to help make changes to the exhibit.
It’s obvious that people interested in Egypt and students learning about it in school should come see the mummy, who has been given the name Men-ka-ef (“His Soul Remains”), Sampsell said. But she encourages others to take a look as well.
“Even if they don’t think they are interested in mummies, they will probably be surprised at how fascinating they find the subject and how much they will learn,” she said.
Efforts are underway to learn as much about the approximately 20-year-old female mummy at Joseph Moore.
But perhaps the museum’s namesake was right.
The most amazing thing about these two mummies is that they are here to be seen, half a world and 3,000 years away from ancient Egypt.
Come take a peek.
*The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis had a mummy on loan for several years, but it is no longer at the museum. Public Relations Manager Leslie Olsen said the museum has a puzzle made to look like an Egyptian mummy, and a mummified cat and birds from Egypt.
By Louise Ronald
Wayne County Historical Museum
1150 N. A St., Richmond
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday, 1-4 p.m. Saturday
Joseph Moore Museum
801 National Road W., Richmond
Hours: 1-5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday
For more information you can contact the Wayne County Tourism Bureau
5701 National Road East, Richmond