Dr. Lincoln Blumell, Department of Ancient Scripture
In January 2011 I received a MEG in the amount of $20,000 to conserve and digitalize BYU’s ancient papyri, parchments, lamellae and Ostraca that are housed in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library. I am very pleased to report that this project was a success. During the course of the MEG my team and I were able to clean and conserve most of the papyri and parchment fragments, which were written in Greek, Coptic and Arabic, as well as take high resolution digital images of the pieces so that they can be studied outside of Special Collections.
On this project I worked closely with two undergraduates, Erik Yingling and Joseph Antley. We began in the winter of 2011 meeting on a weekly basis in Special Collections to inventory the scraps and fragments in Special Collections and to prepare them for cleaning, mounting and digital imaging. As part of our preparation we travelled to the University of California Berkeley in late April 2011 to learn from their conservator how they conserved their large papyrus and parchment collection. The trip was extremely valuable and insightful. Upon returning we went to work restoring the pieces. Much of the restoration work was completed during the summer and fall of 2011. We cleaned the pieces, restored loose fragments, mounted them in protective glass, and then imaged them. During this time we worked as a group between 3 – 5 hours a week on the project; students also did additional work on their own. Work did continue intermittently into the spring of 2012.
The work was quite tedious at times as some of the pieces were very badly damaged and required us to reconstruct a fragment from a dozen different scraps. After cataloging and inventorying the collection we cleaned the pieces of dirt and any loose debris. We then moistened the pieces on non-acidic paper and flattened them between sheets of glass. Once the pieces had been flattened, which usually took about a week, we then mounted them to the glass and sandwiched them between two panes and taped the edges with breathable conservation tape. At this point we would then image the piece as well as have it digitally scanned.
Both students were very quick learners and exceptional in their conservation abilities. As a result of our work together both learned a tremendous amount not only about conservation but also about ancient documents, text reception, textual criticism, papyrology and codicology. Erik Yingling, who has continued his studies in this area, was accepted last year to complete an MA at Yale and received full funding for his graduate program. As I provided him with a letter of recommendation for his application to graduate studies at Yale I am convinced that his involvement in the project surely made his application more attractive. Joseph Antley still has another year at BYU but I am convinced that the experience he gained from this project will help him when he applies for graduate school.
About every piece in the collection that required conservation has been cleaned and mounted. While there are still a few additional scraps that have not been mounted at this point, since they are so small, as I continue to identify texts in the collection and rejoin and reconnect scraps some pieces will be mounted in the future. As a result of the conservation project the next step in the process is now underway, the publication of any important pieces. I have already published one article as a result of our work and two more are currently under review. I am optimistic that with the transcription, identification, and translation of additional pieces more publications will be forthcoming. I am particularly excited to begin work on the Didymus Papyrus, which we also mounted under glass in preparation for transcription, since it is such an important early Christian text.
The following represents an itemized list of how the MEG funding was spent.
- Student Wages:
- Two undergraduates working from early winter 2011 to spring 2012.
- Regional SBL Meeting, Denver 2011
- At the Regional Meeting of the SBL (=Society of Biblical Literature) in March in 2011 I organized a session where members of our conservation group presented initial papers on the contents and significance of the BYU papyri and parchment collection. Session was titled: New Documents from the BYU Papyrus Collection. Expenditure includes conference registration, flights, hotel, per diem, and other miscellaneous expenses for two (Lincoln Blumell and student).
- High Resolution Digital Camera and Camera Supplies
- Purchased a camera with proper lenses, filters, tripod, and other equipment necessary for taking the highest quality digital images of the pieces.
- Conservation Supplies
- Brushes, conservation instruments, mounting glass, paper, storage boxes, and other miscellaneous conservation supplies.
- Travel to UC Berkeley for Training in Conservation (April 2011)
- Flights, hotel, per diem, rental car, and other miscellaneous expenses for a group of four (Lincoln Blumell, Erik Yingling, Joseph Antley, and Thomas Wayment). Spent five days (four nights) in Berkeley receiving training and also one night in Los Angeles since we visited the Getty Museum outside of Los Angeles that houses a number of papyri and parchments.
- Miscellaneous Supplies
- Flash Drives, Instructional Books and Related Literature
- Two Hosting Dinners with visiting Scholars in Papyrology
- From June 20, 2011 to July 29, 2011 BYU hosted the Seventh International Summer School in Greek Papyrology. During this time papyrologists from all over the world converged on BYU to help train visiting PhD students in Papyrology. During this time I organized two dinners where the students could meet visiting scholars and network. (5 people per dinner for a total of $150.00 per dinner).
I want to sincerely thank the MEG program for supporting this project and for providing it with such generous funding. This was an overdue and a much needed project. Now that the fragments in BYU Special Collections have been properly catalogued and conserved they are now ready to be edited and published.