Ta Kush (c) Maidstone Museum

Maidstone Museum's mummy to get a facelift

Nicola Sullivan, 17.08.2016
£78,700 HLF-funded project will consult a youth group and association for the blind
Maidstone Museum is working with medical and scientific experts to reconstruct the face of a 2,500-year-old mummy as part of a £78,700 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) project.
The Kent Institute of Medicine and Science and Liverpool John Moores University will conduct a CT scan of the mummy.

This data will be used to create digital facial reconstructions that will help determine how Ta Kush, thought to have died at the age 14, looked during her lifetime. 3D printing will also be used to create a physical reconstruction of her face that can be handled by museum visitors.

Ta Kush was brought to England in the 1820s and the last autopsy of her body was conducted by London’s British Museum in 1843. This incorrectly determined that her name was Ta Kesh.

Renewed interest in the mummy, however, has led to further research being carried out by specialists associated with the Impact Radiology Project – an online database administered by the Western Ontario University.
“We now know that she is Ta Kush and not Ta Kesh. For the last 150 odd years we have been calling her Ta Kesh. Ta Kush means the ‘Kushite woman’. This means that she was probably from the Sudan rather than Egypt itself. So we are already starting to look at her in a very different way even before we have undertaken the scan,” says Samantha Harris, the collections manager at Maidstone Museum.
It is also hoped that the project will reveal whether or not Ta Kush had given birth to child, what kind of mummification process was used to preserve the body and how she died.
Maidstone Museum will use its links with the British Museum to ensure the care and display of Ta Kush’s remains meet ethical standards.
The £78,700 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund will also be used to redesign the museum’s Ancient Civilisations Gallery, which is where Ta Kush and the reconstructions of her face will be displayed.
This gallery will be designed in consultation with the museum’s youth group Cur8, with members feeding back what they learned during information gathering exercises at the British Museum, the Petrie Museum at the University College London, and Brighton Museum and Hove Museum.
The youngsters have been tasked with building up a picture of what life was like as a teenager in ancient Egypt and how British Victorian collectors were able to acquire ancient artefacts from all over the world. 

“Our youth group is made up of teenagers and they have quite a deep personal interest in that we have got a teenage mummy,” said Lyn Palmer, the public programming manager at Maidstone Museum.
The Kent Association of the Blind will advise the museum on how the development of the space can be optimised for visually impaired visitors. Maidstone Borough Council will cover the cost of a lift and ramps to make the gallery more accessible.
It is likely that the gallery will be split into two themes - life in ancient Greece and death in ancient Egypt. An intern from Greece has been appointed to research the museum’s collections related to these areas before they are displayed in the gallery.
“The objects themselves will come alive and the museum will have a lot of research that our team can use to write the themes around the collection for the new gallery”, said Palmer.