How do you conserve a papyrus?

Papyrus documents need careful attention. Papyrologists and conservators now do most of the restoration and conservation work on the site of the discovery, because the papyri will be stored in a local storage facility in Egypt after the excavation season is over.  For papyrus documents that are already in collections, such as here at the University of Michigan, conservation experts sometimes work in special laboratories.  Conservation work includes cleaning the papyrus, straightening fibers, and sometimes unrolling a papyrus roll that has survived the ages unopened.

Roll of papyrus in the process of being unrolled.  What text will be hidden inside?

Roll of papyrus in the process of being unrolled.  What text will be hidden inside?

Leyla Lau-Lamb, papyrus conservator for the Michigan Papyrus Collection, is shown here in the process of unrolling the roll.

Leyla Lau-Lamb, papyrus conservator for the Michigan Papyrus Collection, is shown here in the process of unrolling the roll.

What does a papyrus look like when it is found?

What do papyrologists do?