The Kelsey Museum has two human mummies and several animal mummies in its collection. Some are on display in the Egyptian galleries; the others remain in storage. The mummies are very fragile and must be climate controlled for their preservation since Michigan’s weather is very different from the dry climate of Egypt that originally preserved them. The ancient Egyptians themselves went to a great deal of trouble to keep the bodies of their dead hidden and private, and this helped preserve the mummies.
The two human mummies in the Kelsey Museum are both of children about two or three years old (we thank James E. Harris, retired Michigan professor who x-rayed these mummies, for providing this information). Both appear to be from the Roman period. One of the child mummies is plain and undecorated, while the other has a plaster mask with gilt and painted decoration. The decorated mummy is heavily damaged. The plain mummy underwent a CT-scan investigation and is on display in the Upjohn Exhibit Wing; the damaged mummy is too fragile for display and is kept in our climate-controlled storage (it is illustrated in our book Life, Death, and Afterlife in Ancient Egypt).
The Kelsey Museum collection includes mummies of a cat and three birds (probably falcons), as well as the decorated head from a cat mummy. Animal mummies of this sort were left as offerings to a god associated with the animal; a person would pay the priests to kill the animal and have it wrapped as a mummy and put into a special chamber in the god’s temple. The cat was associated with the goddess Bast, the dog with Anubis, and the falcon with Horus. The Kelsey also has what appears to be the mummy of a baboon, but x-rays have shown that it contains human arm bones, wrapped to look like a baboon. Apparently, this is an ancient fake, designed to convince someone that they were paying for a baboon mummy. We also have another ancient fake, a mummy in the shape of a dog, made for the cult of one of the Egyptian jackal gods, that contains human child bones (this mummy was featured in the exhibition Death Dogs: The Jackal Gods of Ancient Egypt). The cat mummy, the cat head, and one of the mummified falcons are on display in the Upjohn Exhibit Wing.