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Department of Ancient Art Records

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-09

Scope and Contents Note

The Ancient Art Department Records, the bulk of which are dated between 1986-2012, contain correspondence, object and loan research (specifically around the Kempe collection and the loan of the mummy, "Kharushere," from the Metropolitan Museum of Art), exhibition planning and publicity, dealer-related materials, and deaccession files. Most records are from the tenure of Curator Dr. Robort Cohon. Exhibitions represented within the collection are Discovery and Deceit: Archaeology and the Forger’s Craft (1996-1997), Gold of the Nomads: Scythian Treasures from Ancient Ukraine (1996-1997), the unrealized exhibition Art of Aphrodisias (projected for 1996), Echoes of Eternity: The Egyptian Mummy and the Afterlife (1999-200), and Eternal Egypt: Masterworks of Ancient Art from the British Museum (2002).


  • 1973-2015
  • Majority of material found within 1986-2012

Restrictions on Access

Since this collection is unprocessed, requested records must be reviewed before they can be viewed by researchers; allow a minimum of one week for review.

Conditions Governing Use Note

Notification of intent to publish, quote, or cite archival materials is required. Contact the archives via

Biographical / Historical Note

As the William Rockhill Nelson trustees began to acquire art in 1930 in preparation for opening the museum, they arranged with Harold Woodbury Parsons to act as their art advisor and agent for ancient art, along with European and American art. When the museum’s former registrar, Ross Taggart, was named Senior Curator in 1953, he became the first individual to manage the museum’s collection of ancient art along with his other new duties overseeing the museum’s decorative art and American art collections. When Taggart retired in 1983, Joseph Kuntz, the Associate Curator in Charge of Medieval and European Decorative Arts, took over the role of overseeing these collections. However, after Kuntz’s untimely death in 1985, the museum worked to formally hire a curator who would specifically manage the collection of ancient art objects. That same year, Dr. Robert Cohon, a specialist in Greek and Roman art, was officially hired to become the museum’s Assistant Curator of Arts of the Ancient World. In conjunction with this new role, Cohon also assumed a part-time teaching position with the University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC).

One of Cohon’s first major undertakings with the museum was an overhaul of the way the ancient art collections were presented in the gallery spaces, which led to a restructuring of the galleries so that each room was dedicated to one culture. He also worked with scholars to identify and remove copies and forgeries in the ancient collection and brought several sculptures out from storage to display.

Over the course of Cohon’s tenure, many high-traffic and nationally-acclaimed exhibitions were carried out in the department. Cohon curated the traveling exhibition, Discovery and Deceit: Archaeology and the Forger’s Craft (10/11/1996 - 1/5/1997) and Gold of the Nomads: Scythian Treasures from Ancient Ukraine (6/8 - 8/8/2001). Additionally, Cohon oversaw the arrival and installation of Echoes of Eternity: The Egyptian Mummy and the Afterlife (6/4/1999 - 5/7/2000) from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), which included a mummy and coffin, CAT scans, canopic jars, and funerary figurines. He also worked to bring Eternal Egypt: Masterworks of Ancient Art from the British Museum (4/12 – 7/7/2002) to the museum, which, with programming, attracted over 100, 000 visitors and at the time was one of the three largest and most complex exhibitions that the museum had ever displayed.

The success of these shows led Cohon to search for a mummy to boost the museum’s own existing Egyptian collection. In 2004, the museum obtained a late first millennium B.C. mummy which was named “Mummy of Ka-i-Nefer.” That same year, Cohon announced that the museum had been offered a fourth-century funerary collection of an Egyptian noblewoman named Mertites. In 2007, the museum finally purchased the 2,300-year-old collection of funerary objects which included a seven-foot-tall gilt sarcophagus – all of which became the highlight of the newly renovated Ancient Art and Egyptian gallery spaces in 2010.

Cohon retired from his role as Curator, Arts of the Ancient World in August of 2018.


11 Linear Feet (In 8 record center cartons and 1 lidded box.)

Language of Materials



This is an unprocessed collection. A general overview of each box's contents is provided in its associated scope and contents note.

Immediate Source of Acquisition Note


Accruals Note

Additions to the collection are anticipated.

Related Materials Note

Office of Director Records, Paul Gardner Records (RG 01/01); William Rockhill Nelson Trust Office Records (80/05 and 80/15); William Rockhill Nelson Trust Office Records, J.C. Nichols Files (80/10); Betty Jones Collection (MSS 010), Series II ("Museum Lectures - Cassette Tapes"), specifically "Ancient Art Lecture Cassettes, 1999-2002"; Office of the Director Records, Marc Wilson Records (01/04), specifically series II, folder 29: "Eternal Egypt - Masterworks of Ancient Art from the British Museum, 2002" and series IV, folders 27-30: "Ancient Art, 1998-2010"; Senior Curator Records (RG 98).

Finding Aid of the Department of Ancient Art Records, RG 09
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Archives Repository

4525 Oak St.
Kansas City MO 64111 United States