PHILADELPHIA – The Penn Museum in Philadelphia has relocated thousands of historical pieces since a demolition project is taking place close to it. Earth-shaking vibrations generated by heavy machinery could jeopardize the integrity of the artifacts, said museum authorities to the Associated Press.

Several mummies, a Sphinx, pottery and other delicate treasures excavated around the world are housed in the Penn Museum, which has reordered its exhibitions in order protect valuable objects. Conservator Lynn Grant said that the museum wanted to minimize the impact of the new changes on the visitors, as a response “they will keep things up as long as they can”.

Egyptian Heads, Mummies of the World Exhibition. Credit: Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA.

Demolitions are being carried out by the University of Pennsylvania (UPENN), which owns the Penn Museum. Close to its installations, an 850-car parking garage, and a 23-story medical office tower are being pulled down to construct a new hospital pavilion.

Patrick Dorris, an associate vice president for the university’s health system, remarked that the demolition project is expected to be finished by August. That being said, vibrations will continue to shake the museum installations, since earth excavations will be needed to construct the hospital, he added.

The Penn Museum treasures 1 million historical items. However, just a few of them are exhibited to more than 160,000 visitors per year, while researchers and analysts are examining the other pieces.

Security measures include changing several glass shelves for wood or acrylic boards. Moreover, the Egyptian tomb chapel of Kaipure, which was acquired by the museum in 1904, was dismounted, and the Islamic Near East Gallery was shut down. Later in June, museum personnel will remove two Buddhist murals made of mud plaster, which dates to five centuries ago, said reporters from the Associated Press.

It appears that calculating the impact of vibration on the museum pieces can be complicated, said Andrew Smyth, a Columbia professor of civil engineering and consultant at the project. “You have so many objects and they’re represented and displayed in so many ways, and they all have their own unique fragilities,” he added in a press release.

Some specific items are already strictly guarded by museum staff, who receive cell phone alerts from vibration sensors when the pieces are at risk. Nonetheless, when vibrations appear to be severe, the demolition superintendent is notified in order to reduce the intensity of construction works.

Hopefully, with the removal and relocation of some museum items, the staff has discovered new historical pieces that have remained unpacked since they were first excavated. As a result, new exhibitions will be organized in the future.

“The Golden Age of King Midas” opened last Saturday. The exhibition was developed by the Penn Museum alongside the Republic of Turkey and it will feature a royal tomb that dates to 740 BCE.

“The tomb chamber within still ranks as the oldest standing wooden building in the world. The exhibition includes many of the bronze vessels from the tomb, most of which will be shown in the U.S. for the first time.” Said the Penn Museum in a press release.

Source: Business Insider