Conservation of Papyri

With documents that are well over two thousand years old, it is very important to ensure their safety and future preservation. Beginning in the 1980's, the University of Michigan took progressive steps towards protecting these important artifacts.

Today, our entire papyrus collection is housed in a fireproof, climate-controlled Environmental Room (E-Room). The conditions are kept just right to minimize any further decay and deterioration of the papyri.

The E-Room The E-Room

The papyri within the vault are either unmounted (kept loose in folders) or mounted (sandwiched between two sheets of glass).


a mounted papyrus an unmounted papyrus
mounted papyrus unmounted papyrus

As of now, the majority of papyri are unmounted. Of the glass-mounted papyri, hundreds have been transferred to new mounts recently, replacing broken glass and the old, deteriorated electrical tape which had held the glass together.

Before a papyrus is mounted in glass, it is carefully cleaned and restored to the best possible condition. Many of the papyri have not had any conservation work done since they came to the collection, and it is often necessary to clean them, unroll them, remove debris and align the fibers. For these tasks the conservator uses special tools and a lot of patience.


Page maintained by Monica Tsuneishi
Last modified: 03/11/2014