Mason and the Mummy, a featured exhibit at the Washington State History Museum

The Washington State History Museum located at 1911 Pacific Avenue Tacoma, Washington 98402 is currently offering the Mason and the Mummy exhibit until June 2, 2013. Stephanie Lile, director of education at the Washington State History Museum and curator of the Mason and the Mummy exhibit, explained how the exhibit came about: “It was an adjunct exhibit to the traveling exhibition we had called: “Wrapped the Search for the Essential Mummy” Mason and the Mummy was a local connection, a mummy we had from the city of Ahkmim, Egypt. We decided to keep our mummy and I reworked it into a smaller gallery for a longer period of time while keeping the story of Mason and the Mummy.”

Coffin painting detail from the inner coffin of Ankh-Wennefer. Courtesy of Washington State Historical Society collections.

Twelve years later, when the Ferry Museum and the Washington State Historical Society joined forces to open a new museum, the mummy was one of its most popular exhibits. So popular, in fact, that students from the Tacoma High School formed the Ankh Unnufei Club to honor the mummy’s ancient past. One of the club’s founding members, Herbert Spinden, even went on to become an expert in ancient cultures.”

Stephanie shared information about Ankh-Wennefer: “He was the second profit in the temple of Min. Min was a God of fertility in ancient Egypt. He came from the ancient city of Ahkmim in Egypt. Ankh-Wennefer was the person that ran the entire temple management of hundreds of people. The temple was the center of everything in the city. Ankh-Wennefer was the leader and a highly ranked prestigious person.

Another thing that is interesting about him and mummies from Ahkmim, Ankh-Wennefer’s uncle was discovered to be in the British Museum in London and his son is in the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco, California. So, there have been hundreds of tombs opened from Ahkmim, which have been dispersed around the world. The most famous and old time museums have mummies in their collections.”

Scan of Ankh-Wennefer showing his crossed arm position. Courtesy of Washington State Historical Society and MultiCare Imaging.

Stephanie mentioned what many people may not know about the exhibit, “It combines history and science; we were able to take the mummy to the Tacoma General Hospital and have it scanned and we have some results of the scan as part of the exhibit. We found that Ankh-Wennefer died at age 60, which is very old for someone in the ancient world. We were able to pinpoint a cause of death, which was due to a broken pelvis. Since the scan technology has gotten so advanced, we were able to have a reconstruction of his face to see what Ankh-Wennefer would’ve looked like in theory and in life. It’s a really good forensics portrait that is still based on some artistic rendering.”

Stephanie revealed how the Mason and the Mummy exhibit is unique compared to other exhibits at the museum: “This one really highlights one mummy and one collector. Whereas the “Wrapped the Search for the Essential Mummy” exhibit looked at a whole range of collectors and phenomena searching for mummies (people) and how that whole science of desire of collecting changed to the conservation sides of things and how to preserve these ancient artifacts in today’s world.”

When asked who she recommended come visit the Mason and the Mummy exhibit, Stephanie replied, “Everybody should come see it (she laughs) kids think of mummies and their mystique and adults want to gain a whole other aspect, such as the role of the collector and the interpretation of ancient art, mummy scans, and what we can learn including: diseases from the ancient world, causes of death, philosophy and mythological beliefs from the ancient world …all sorts of things.”

Regular admission to the museum is $9.50 for adults, $7 for senior and military, $7 for students 6 years of age and older with student i.d., and free for children under age 6, members of the museum, and free admission for anybody on the third Thursday of the month from 2 pm to 8 pm.

For more information, please visit: “We have some really fun summer programs planned so I think people will enjoy coming down to those. After Memorial Day, (starting June 2nd) we will be open 7 days a week,” Stephanie concluded.

By: Carly Calabrese, staff for

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