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Digital X-rays performed at The Barnum Museum reveal some interesting internal problems in artifacts 

On Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012 at The Barnum Museum in Bridgeport CT, Quinnipiac University professors Jerry Conlogue and Ron Beckett used a portable X-ray system from Kubtec to uncover some damage inside the plaster cast bust of P.T. Barnum created by Thomas Ball in the 1880s. These X-ray images revealed a sub-surface crack on the nose of the bust. No visible damage could be seen on the outside. Quinnipiac University has had Kubtec's Kubscan CR scanner for two weeks and the professors were testing it at the museum to make sure it worked properly before they take it to Ecuador in January to study many mummies. Kubtec is a Milford CT based manufacturer of digital imaging products, so representatives from the firm were on hand to also make sure it was functioning properly.

Using these paleoimaging techniques, other complex artifacts were X-rayed to assess the internal condition and stability, particularly after the massive environmental impact of the tornado in 2010.
X-rays of Lavinia Warren's (Tom Thumb's wife) dress form revealed unexpected results. Beneath the outer construction, two 19th century corsets were evident, and scale modifications became apparent when the X-rays were compared to the original 1878 patent designs of the form, which was on file at the museum.

The FEEJEE Mermaid reproduction, based on the version of the mermaid which P.T. Barnum exhibited in his American Museum in 1842, revealed very simple construction using modern parts and materials. On the inside was a plain wire form underneath the gruesome appearing exterior. Previous X-rays of 19th century versions of the mermaid show that the creature was actually made with a monkey skull and torso, and a fish tail for the lower body.

Beckett explained, "It is very important for museums to understand their collection from the inside, out because this helps them to know how to best preserve and conserve delicate and intricate objects. Curators need to know what is happening internally. We are delighted that the Kubtec scanner and scopes used Tuesday uncovered some internal deterioration and thereby allowing the museum to arrest, slow and/or repair some potentially harmful damage to portions of their priceless collection."

Conducting the research were Ronald (Ron) Beckett Ph.D., FAARC, Professor Emeritus, Biomedical Sciences, Quinnipiac University and Co-Director and Co-Founder of the Bioanthropology Research Institute along with Gerald (Jerry) Conlogue. Conlogue is professor of diagnostic imaging in the School of Health Sciences at Quinnipiac University in Hamden CT, a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, a research associate for the Museum of London in England. Beckett is a Fulbright Scholar in Anthropology, a National Geographic Explorer, on the graduate faculty at Rush University in Chicago IL and a research Associate in the Department of Physical Anthropology for the Museum of Man in San Diego CA.

To learn more about The Barnum Museum's current Recovery in Action exhibition and programs visit: barnum-museum.org or call 203-331-1104. You can also visit them on Facebook, view past programs at barnummuseumexhibitions.org or communicate on Twitter @BarnumMuseum.
For more information on Kubtec visit kubtec.com or the blog created by Professor Conlogue on their website: http://kubtec.com/2012/08/mummies-other-x-ray-imaging-uses/ Interested individuals can also search Bioanthropology on Facebook to join on line conversations with others on this topic.


 

The Barnum Museum | 820 Main Street | Bridgeport, CT 06604
phone: 203-331-1104 | fax: 203-331-0079
Executive Director:
Kathleen Maher


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