Thursday, 8 October 2015

Displaying Maori Cloaks

There are eight Maori cloaks in the Cook-voyage collections held at the Pitt Rivers museum.  Five have been selected for the new display, and they form a visual balance to the Tahitian fau and the Mourner's costume at the other end of the case.  Many of the cloaks have only been displayed flat in the past, but inspired by the photos in 'Whatu Kakahu/Maori Cloaks', edited by Awhina Tamarapa and published by Te Papa Press in 2011, we wanted to display these taonga to more represent the way they were worn.

The five cloaks mounted in the display mock-up

Torso-shaped mounts were made from inert Plastazote foam and low-formaldehyde MDF, and covered in polyester wadding and conservation-grade fabric.  Velcro strips were sewn to calico, and then attached to the back of each cloak using a herringbone stitch, passing between fibre bundles.  The corresponding part of the velcro strip was sewn to the mount, and in this way the cloak could be held in place. 

Cloaks mock-up with tissue paper during the mounting process.  The torso-shaped mounts can be seen underneath

The cloaks selected for display include 1886.1.1124, a rain cape, and 1886.1.1134, a cape made from fibres from the cabbage tree (ti kouka, Cordyline australis) which has the remains of feathers still attached.  Also chosen is 1886.1.1132, a cloak made from New Zealand flax and collected on the second voyage. It incorporates a red woollen thread which must have been obtained from a first voyage wool textile.

A thread of red wool incorporated into the cloak