Thursday, 18 July 2013

'A black piece'

Emma Schmitt, a MPhil student in textile conservation, based at the Centre for Textile Conservation, Glasgow University, started at the Pitt Rivers on Monday.  She will be with us for eight weeks, working on Cook-voyage objects for the Conserving "Curiosities" project.

1886.1.1256 Barkcloth, Tahiti

Emma's first project is to investigate a piece of barkcloth, collected on Tahiti - Forster No. 18 'A black piece'. It has three layers-the bottom two are recognisably Tahitian, but the top layer, with its fish-scale like appearance, is very unusual.

Corner of barkcloth, showing deterioration

There are several questions we hope to answer about this barkcloth - why is the black layer deteriorating so badly?  What has been applied to the surface to create the dotted decoration? (There has been a suggestion that this might even be a European paint obtained on a previous voyage).

Microscope image showing detail of applied dots

Is the black barkcloth even originally from Tahiti? Emma will spend time trying to answer some of these questions, and investigating conservation treatments for the fragile barkcloth.