Sherbrooke woodworkers create home away from home for 6,000-year-old visitors

By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    
March 4 2020

SHERBROOKE – What do you get the mummy who has everything? How about a nice custom-made cabinet, courtesy of Sherbrooke Village's gifted woodworkers.

Meet Ronnie Kaiser, Joey Jordan, Rodney MacDougall and Keith Laybolt. They’re the intrepid team of craftsmen who, with two weeks’ notice, managed to manufacture eight, six-to-eight-foot display cases suitable for housing a delegation of long-dead royalty from one of the world’s cradles of civilization.

The occasion was the Egyptian Mummies and Eternal Life exhibit – courtesy of Museo Egizio of Florence, Italy – which made its North American debut at the Natural Museum of Natural History in Halifax last month.

“This exhibition features more than 100 exceptional original artifacts, including mummies, painted sarcophagi and burial items that evoke the mythical, mysterious landscape of the tombs and pyramids of ancient Egypt,” a museum news release said.

Nova Scotia Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister Leo Glavine said, “This will be an extraordinary opportunity to see the richness of Egyptian culture and will capture the minds and imaginations of all. I encourage Nova Scotians to enjoy this amazing journey that showcases 6,000 years of history.”

MacDougall says he and his crew, who won the job on January 4, had a tight turnaround time of about two weeks. But he wasn’t worried.

“The Italian people sent over specs of what was coming and a blueprint of what they wanted,” he says. “It was nothing we couldn’t handle.”

Constructed of sturdy hardwood, the units feature ¼-inch, transparent plastic sheeting for viewing, grids with holes to enable the artifacts to “breathe”, and drawers filled with gel packs to wick away moisture. “The drawers were fitted with locks to keep kids out,” MacDougall says. “And the things are all screwed shut.”

Mummies and Eternal Life is the first Egyptian exhibit for the Museum of Natural History. Meanwhile, Sherbrooke Village wood shop’s fame is growing. Says MacDougall, “We’ve actually worked on the St. Mary’s Basilica Church windows in Halifax, and display cabinets for the Sisters of St. Martha’s. We’ve worked for other museums, as well. So, it’s all bigger projects coming in the door.”