Ancient triple nesting sarcophagi stole the spotlight at SF State’s Global Museum’s inaugural opening on April 26.
The new museum featured four different sections: collections from the Americas, Oceana, Africa, and ancient Egypt. In choosing the art pieces for the inaugural opening, Director of the Global Museum Paige Alison Bardolph and her team considered key areas, themes and which available materials would be appropriate.
The pieces in the inaugural opening were chosen from different departments in the University, such as museum studies and anthropology. The Global Museum was an opportunity to unite the strongest collections at SF State into one space.
“The sarcophagi is obviously the star of the show,” engagement specialist Allie Marotta revealed. “But I also feel like people gravitated towards the objects that they feel like they can connect to.”
The visitor favorite, the ancient Egyptian sarcophagi, was collected by Adolph Sutro, a one-time San Francisco mayor who also built Sutro Baths. The sarcophagi is the oldest collection ofthe displays, dating back 3,500 years. They were preserved in a climate controlled environment and were obtained by SF State with the help of a Classics professor in the ‘60s.
Museum Studies faculty member Lissette Jiménez, who is also an Egyptologist, helped decipher the hieroglyphics on the sarcophagus to better understand its history. The translations are displayed in the description with the sarcophagus.
“We’re continuing to learn about our collections, continuing to do research, expanding our catalog data and that was one example of how she was able to translate the hieroglyphs on the sarcophagus,” Bardolph said. “We know this individual’s name and we know he was a priest.”
According to Bardolph, being buried in a sarcophagus was a special treatment in ancient Egypt. Formerly housed oin the fifth floor of the Humanities building, the mummified remains of Nes-Per-N-Nub, who was buried in the rare triple nesting sarcophagi, was not displayed in the inaugural opening. The department decided to show it in a different exhibit that will open up next fall semester.
“I’ve been to Egypt so I know the construction process for these ones, what each coffin differently meant and how these hieroglyphics explained something about their lives, ” junior computer science major Preyansh Kotecha said.
Kotecha was fascinated by the construction process and explained that the wooden nails used to build the sarcophagus were at a certain angle that would make it hard to disassemble the piece. He found out about the opening while passing by the Fine Arts building and was excited to find the sarcophagi displayed in the exhibit.
“These are at least 4,000 years old. Do we even remember something that’s like 50 years old and still preserved? We don’t even see floppy disks anymore. These are so old. They’ve been living more than any of us,” Kotecha explained.
Sarah Moran, a recent arts education graduate from SF State, visited the museum to see how it turned after hearing about its construction. Her interest in anthropology also made her curious to see what the museum has to offer.
While Moran thought it was amazing to be close to something ancient, she was also curious about where it comes from.
“I saw that they were going to display the sarcophagus and I thought that was neat,” she said. “It’s really amazing to just be close to it and look at it and say ‘wow this is really old’ but at the same time I want to know more about why they are showing it because I know it’s something sacred and it should be somewhere buried, belonging to that tribe or nation.”
Another one of Moran’s favorites was a carved wood piece called “Wuramon” — a spirit boat or canoe from Papua New Guinea.
Other highlights of the exhibit include a headdress worn by Chief Raoni, a contemporary activist who was one of the leaders in the fight against the deforestation in the Amazon, the Eharo mask from Southeast New Guinea and a bark cloth.
At least 129 people visited the Global Museum’s inaugural opening. The museum will be open through May of next year.