The Mystery of the Albany Mummies

September 21, 2013 - June 8, 2014
The story of the Albany Mummies centers on two Ancient Egyptian mummies and their coffins one dating from 21stDynasty and the other from the Ptolemaic Period. In 1909 the two coffin bottoms and two mummies were purchased from the Cairo Museum by Albany Institute board member Samuel Brown, a purveyor of coffees, teas and spices in Albany. The transport of the mummies and coffins by steamship from Cairo to New York and then by steamboat to Albany was covered daily in the Albany newspapers. Since their arrival these coffins and mummies have been on continuous exhibition in the Ancient Egyptian Gallery and are the most popular, most celebrated, and best remembered of all museum collections. When the museum acquired the coffins and mummies in 1909, the mission of the museum and its collections were diverse including worldwide art, decorative arts, historical and ethnographic artifacts. In 1926, the museum’s mission was revised to reflect its mission today, which is to collect, document, and interpret the history, art, and culture of the upper Hudson Valley. Given the popular appeal of Ancient Egyptian culture, today “The Albany Mummies” are interpreted as part of the history of the museum. An interpretive label with images recounts the story of their acquisition, their display in four different museum galleries over 100 years, changes in scholarship over time, and the intersection of science and technology (X-rays and CT scans in 1988). This story continues to delight, engage, and fascinate audiences of all ages. From grandparents to school age children, almost every visitor to the museum has a story about their first encounter with “The Albany Mummies.” 

The Albany Mummies are accompanied by over 30 objects on loan from the Carlos Museum, and will travel to Houston when the exhibition ends in June.

Late Dynastic coffin
Dynasties 27-30, 525-343 BC
Wood, plaster, pigment
Collected by William A. Shelton, funded by John A. Manget
Photo by Peter Harholdt