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.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Digital Images

For the past few days I have been uploading digital images of Cook-voyage objects into the Museum's digital image archive.  The archive is the result of a recent project, 'Pictures worth a thousand words', funded by the Esme Fairburn Foundation.  This project aimed to scan and digitise our collection of historical images, and to create systems for managing the digital images generated by various museum departments. 

Some of the images I've been uploading will soon be available on the Pitt Rivers online databases, but many more will be part of the new Cook-voyage collection website which will be an outcome of this project.

Here are some of those images:

1866.1.1404 Belt, Tonga.  Detail of construction

1886.1.1438 Club, Tonga.  Detail of carved decoration

1886.1.1340 Headdress, Marquesas Islands.  Detail of reverse, showing construction techniques

1887.1.392 Breastplate, Tahiti

1886.1.1568 Teeth ornament, New Zealand.  Microscope image showing red ochre

1886.1.1550 Barkcloth beater, Tahiti, showing fragments of barkcloth in grooves

1886.1.1571 Necklace, Tonga.  Detail of carved bird ornament