A Tale of Two Time Travelers

Sep 13, 2013

People who grew up in New York State's Capital City know them very well — the two mummies on display at the Albany Institute of History and Art on Washington Avenue. Now, modern science is unraveling many of the mysteries that surround the pair.
Credit Albany institute of History & Art

In 1909,  Albany Institute board member Samuel Brown purchased two mummies from the Cairo Museum. One was partially unwrapped at Brown's request so he could be sure he was getting the Real McCoy. The ancient duo traveled to upstate New York by steamship.

The mummies have been on continuous display for more than 100 years along with their mummified cat: they have been seen by thousands upon thousands of visitors to the Albany Institute. In 2012, the pair were briefly taken from their display cases, transported to Albany Medical Center, and scanned using cutting-edge technology in efforts to learn more about them. They made a similar journey back in the 1980s for x-ray examination, but the leaps in technology seemed to demand they be given another look.

The project and process is the subject of a film documentary titled “The Albany Mummies: Unraveling an Ancient Mystery.” Albany Institute Board Member, University at Albany English professor and Humanities Center Director Mary Valentis co-wrote and co-produced the picture.

Who hasn't been fascinated by the lure of the mysteries of Ancient Egypt? From the early "pyramid digs" in the 1700s to the modern-day TV series "Stargate," Egypt has been fabled in story and song...

Voyager 1, the first spacecraft to leave the solar system, now in interstellar space, carries on board a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth, including satellite photographs of the Nile, which likely include landscape our Albany mummies once called home.

Co-writer-producer retired UAlbany journalism professor Bill Rainbolt says it's important Albany gets to know its mummies better, for a variety of reasons.  The film has had public screenings, most recently on Albany-area PBS affiliate WMHT.  The Institute’s 2013 exhibition GE Presents: The Mystery of the Albany Mummies opens September 21st and runs through through June 8, 2014.

A forthcoming book about Albany's Mummies will be published by the Albany Institute and SUNY Press.