The Foundation’s conservation and restoration policy
In 1981, the Foundation started work on the conservation and restoration of its documents, focussing particularly on the Bodmer Papyri collection. The papyri, which until then had been kept in sheets of cellulose acetate, were placed between glass plates. In 2007, a campaign started with the support of the Lotterie Romande to raise funds to re-mount the papyri.
In 1985, in parallel with the restoration of the papyri, work got underway to restore drawings, engravings and bindings. The drawing collection was reorganized: passe-partouts were mounted and protective boxes made. Later, boxes were tailor-made for autograph books (CB), incunabula (InCB), oriental books (MS oriental) and other items in the collection such as papyrus codices, palm leaf manuscripts, cuneiform nails, etc… An inventory of the autograph manuscripts was also made and the texts were stored in protective folders.
With the opening of the Museum in 2003, another major undertaking was the mounting of displays. Many different supports were devised to achieve the best possible display of the items in the exhibition.
Florence Darbre, the leading Swiss expert in the field of papyri restoration, was responsible for the conservation-restoration of the collection and the packaging of items for exhibitions. Other renowned experts in the field are Myriam Krutzsch (Germany), Andrea Donau (Austria) and Leila Lau-Lamb (United States).
At the end of 2001, the National Geographic entrusted Florence Darbre with the delicate task of restoring the famous Codex Tchacos of the Gospel of Judas. The restoration work would last four years.
The Codex Tchacos was first mentioned in texts by Saint Irenaeus. It is an early Christian gnostic text that was written in the old Coptic language in the 3rd or 4th century AD. It consists of 66 pages and includes four texts: a letter from Peter to Philip; a text titled James, a fragment of a text that scholars are provisionally calling the Book of Allogenes and the only known copy of the Gospel of Judas.
The Codex had been through a number of ordeals since it was first discovered in Egypt in the second half of the 20th century and had severely deteriorated.
The restoration work undertaken by Florence Darbre was a success. It was a painstaking process: the pages and fragments had to be separated, cleaned, treated, reconstructed, mounted and stored. Carbon-14 dating confirmed the authenticity of the Gospel, estimating it between 220 and 340 AD.
A documentary film on the history and restoration techniques used is available at the Museum reception desk. Thanks to the restoration work, the Codex Tchacos has been exhibited in the Museum’s display cases on several occasions. The Codex was published and interpreted by Rodolphe Kasser and Gregor Würst.