Friday, February 29, 2008

What is this?

As the cataloging project moves forward, we occasionally encounter objects we can't quite classify. For instance, this object:

double figure

Our records tell us that it is a "New Guinea double figure." I tried to track down similar objects on the internet but wasn't particularly successful. Some objects from the Sepik River region have similar design, but no large flat carvings in this manner.

This week's Whatzit is a reversal of the normal. I don't know what this object is (currently it's going by the name "carving") or what its purpose originally was, but I have this feeling that it should be something relatively easy to find out. Good old google has not been particularly forthcoming, so I was hoping some one out in internet-land might have an insight.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

This is how we roll

Last Friday's Whatzit garnered 2 guesses: serape or a "contemporary version of a Buddhist sand mandala." While both guesses are interesting, I'm afraid it's much simpler than that; it's a rug.

More specifically, it's a small woven rug from Iran and it is the first textile in our collection to be rolled.

Yep. Rolled. Rolling is standard practice for storing museum textiles. Folding rugs, blankets, etc. like you might do to store them in your linen closet is not good for long term preservation. The fibers along the fold become brittle and it becomes difficult for the textile to be laid flat. Small textiles can be stored flat, but when it comes to a blanket or a quilt, most museums simply don't have the space to do so.

The rug in question has been folded, probably for several years.
Previous storage

These are the rolls that our textiles are going to be rolled around.

Yes, they look like giant paper towel tubes. And, in essence, they are. Except they are acid-free and unbuffered, which makes them more expensive than giant paper towel tubes. The first step involved wrapping the tube in Tyvek. Even though the tubes are "museum quality" they'd been shipped unwrapped and moved around in that state, so I wanted to provide a definite layer between the textile and the tube.

Then I unfolded the rug and laid it on a long piece of acid-free, unbuffered tissue paper. I carefully, tediously, made sure all the fringe was laying straight:

Since the rolling will have the textile resting against itself for a long long time (unless we use it for an exhibit, or it is the subject of research), any bent fringe, any folds in the textile will be reinforced over time, putting extra stress on the fibers - the exact thing we are trying to avoid. In the same vein as having all the fringe straight, it's important not to let the roll drift, and to make sure the edges of the rolled textile are stacked exactly:
ready to roll

In the above photo you can see how ingrained the creases are already. The tube, prepped with tyvek, is placed in line with the textile. Then we're ready to roll!

Halfway rolled:

To get to the halfway rolled point, I had to start rolling a half dozen times, each time adjusting slightly to make sure the edges of the textile stacked exactly.

All the way rolled:

The textile is entirely rolled, with an outer covering of tyvek to protect it from dust, and a couple of cotton twill tape ties, along with a very important label to let folks know exactly what is inside this mysterious roll.

CWU's Collections Management and Curation course is working with our collection of Navajo textiles this quarter, part of which will require them to roll or otherwise properly store the textile they are working with. So, in the near future, an important portion of our textile collection will be stored this way.

In the words of Optimus Prime: Roll out!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Whatzit: February 15, 2008

This week we have the section of... something... for you to take a look at and try to guess what the full sized object is.

(click to see a larger version)

This is an object about which I will have a lot to say come Tuesday or Wednesday when I post the answer. Until then, good luck guessing!

Friday, February 8, 2008

A tale of two housings

The museum has been very lucky to have three dedicated interns this quarter. One of the interns, Rachel, has been working on our collection of arrows, bows, and similar things. She's taken some well intentioned custom housing and transformed it into modern, safe, and really lovely housing.

This is the original state of the arrows (click to see larger versions):

Old arrow housing

The arrow stand had short pieces of plastic tubing which held up the arrows. The tubing was originally clear, but is now yellowed. When we took the arrows out of the tubing, we found it was often difficult to do so while not scraping the tubing against the shafts and to do so while properly supporting the entire shaft. It seemed clear that continued use of the old arrow stand would not suffice.

Rachel first did some research and catalogued the arrows. Our records indicate that these arrows are from the Barama River region in Guyana. We think that they were used in fishing. They seem to resemble spears, but have feathers and a nock so look to be used with a bow. The tips are made of wood, not rusted metal, as it might appear at first glance. In short, these are really cool looking objects.

After much planning, discussion, and work, Rachel has created custom housing for the arrows which is much much better.

New housing

We had no boxes long enough, and even our plain cardboard was too short to use, so Rachel had to MacGyver a solution out of what we did have. The box is made of two different boxes, cut and glued together. The supports are ethafoam with cotton tape ties. The boxes are thrifty and effective!

Ties close up

And don't those arrows look excellent!


I'd call that a job well done.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Answer 8-156

Last Friday's Whatzit was correctly identified by Allyson! It is a parfleche.

Parfleche, 8-156

Parfleches were used to carry many things including foodstuffs and clothing. They are often decorated in bright colors and the designs are sometimes maps (according to one online source I read). I think of parfleches as the pre-runner to backpacks and suitcases. I'm not sure how apt that analogy is, but these objects certainly seem to be useful.

The parfleche is made of leather or hide which has long since stiffened and dried out, making it impossible to unfold it and use it as it was originally intended without causing significant and irreversible damage to it.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Whatzit: February 1, 2008

You know the drill - photo of a small portion of a larger object. Guess what the larger object might be. (click to see a larger version)

Whatzit 8-156

Clue: This object is a container.

The full image and the answer will be revealed on Tuesday!