The "Iceman" in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology

In awareness of fact that this archaeological find was likely to trigger heated ethical discussions, great importance was attached to a very restrained form of presentation, when the Museum was established in 1998.

The current exhibition format stems from the 2011 special exhibition on 20 years of the Iceman, which became a permanent exhibition in January 2013.

The area surrounding the mummy is deliberately stark: the white-painted walls evoke a wide-open and snow-covered landscape. The graphics and architecture do not in any way detract from the object.

By means of partitioning of the exhibition room, the museum visitor can decide for himself if he wants to view the mummy or not.

The window through which one can look at the mummy has not been "shoved" into the middle point of the entire exhibition. Instead, it has been placed in a visually separated, tastefully designed room. The 40x30 cm wall opening allows the museum visitor to take a look into the refrigeration chamber in which the mummy - lying on a precision scale - is conserved at a temperature of -6ºC and nearly 100% relative air humidity - the same conditions found in a glacier.

Behind the metal wall visible in the exhibition room, there is the so-called "Iceman Box": a complex installation consisting of two refrigeration chambers with independent systems, an examination room, and a decontamination chamber.

Sterile conditions and air filtration are guaranteed in all of the chambers. A small laboratory is available for further scientific investigations. A computer-controlled station registers the measurement values (pressure, temperature, relative humidity, weight of the mummy) which are transmitted by the sensors and probes mounted on the mummy's body or in the refrigeration chamber. They can automatically sound an alarm if any changes occur. This alarm and security system enables the museum's own specialized technicians to react immediately in the event of an emergency.

In contrast to the other areas of the museum, the floor dedicated to the Iceman has dimmed lights. This is not done to create a particular atmosphere, but rather for conservatorial reasons, paying heed to the light-sensitive nature of the objects.

The accompanying finds are kept in acclimatised, nitrogen-filled showcases at a temperature of 18ºC. The finds are displayed under 50 Lux strong fibre-glass lamps.

Text: South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology