conserved and restored Yup'ik mask with Mel Wachowiak, Katharina
Geier and Greta Hansen.
mask. According to Edward Nelson, this mask "represents
the tunghâk or being that controls the supply of game.
It is usually represented as living in the moon. The shamans
commonly make a pretense of going to him with offerings in order
to bring game into their district when the hunters have been
unsuccessful for some time.
of this character are too heavy to be worn upon the face without
additional support, so they are ordinarily suspended from the
roof of the kashim by strong cords. The wearer stands behind
with the mask bound about his head, and wags it from side to
side during the dance so as to produce the ordinary motion. I
was told that in all the great mask festivals several of these
huge objects were usually thus suspended from the roof."
Nelson, The Eskimo About Bering Strait. 18th Annual
Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1896-97, Part 1 (Washington,
DC, 1899), page 400.
MORE ABOUT IT
Geier’s thesis and analytical reports will soon be available
on the SCMRE web site.
Godfrey takes colorimetric measurements of Seminole garments.
CIE L*a*b* color measurement system describes and orders colors graphically
and numerically through a color coordinate plane that is consistent
with human visual perception.
system describes and orders colors by an opponent-color scale, which
is based on the Opponent-Color Theory: if something is red, it cannot
be green at the same time (but it may also be blue or yellow) and
if something is yellow, it has cannot be blue at the same time (but
it may also be red or green).
L*a*b* Color Space
the lightness coordinate
the red/green coordinate, with +a* indicating red, and -a*
the yellow/blue coordinate, with +b* indicating yellow, and
-b* indicating blue.
Tschappat cleans a Makah woven basket made of red cedar. Our catalog
records indicate this basket would have been used for storing dried
glove, knit from the fiber of a Mediterranean mussel (Pinna
Joyce Murrell removing cotton from the mussel fiber glove.
What's New for March 2004
and Study of Two Yup’ik Masks
Yup'ik ceremonial masks – the largest examples in the Department
of Anthropology's collections – were chosen by Katharina
Geier as the subject of a master's thesis undertaken for the
University of Applied Sciences Erfurt (Germany). Geier discovered
the masks during the course of her 4th year internship at the Smithsonian
Center for Materials Research and Education, where she is
working with senior furniture conservator Mel Wachowiak. The
carved wooden masks, collected by Edward Nelson during the 1880s,
are painted and decorated with feathers. They closely resemble
each other and share the same materials and techniques of construction.
Both masks have the prominent facial features, attached arms
that extend directly from their mouths, side bars, two labrets,
and attached carved animals. They also appear to be painted in
the same manner with the same colors. At some point in their
history the masks were disassembled. [Mask
1] [Mask 2]
Geier consulted illustrations in the anthropology department's
ledger books and Nelson’s own monograph (see sidebar),
she learned that many pieces of the masks were no longer associated
with them. She managed to locate fifteen of the detached pieces
in various Arctic storage units after many hours of searching.
She was able to positively associate these detached pieces with
their original masks because the masks and their various parts
included field number markings, and because pieces of broken
dowels in the detached items could be matched to each mask.
and staff scientists analyzed the materials and techniques of
manufacture of the masks to gather technical information that
served as the background for conservation and restoration. The
pigments and binders used, as well as the paint application,
are still under investigation and the analytical results will
be published. This new set of analytical data, derived from objects
of a generally known age and origin, will serve as a reference
for future studies of objects from the Arctic region.
treatment proposal for the masks was drafted after consultations
with Greta Hansen and Arctic curator William Fitzhugh, to ensure
that the treatment would be compatible with departmental objectives
and philosophy. Following the treatment, the masks were reassembled
and restored to some extent. Long-detached parts were reattached
to the masks and lost parts were reconstructed by comparison
of the masks to existing drawings and photographs [Mask
1]. Due to the symmetry of the objects, additional information
about missing parts was obtained through the examination of the
opposite sides of the masks. The replacements were carved from
wood and inpainted using dry pigments and water colors. Each
inpainted replacement carving was marked on its back in pencil
with the date of its creation (2003). Like the original parts,
they were carved with dowel attachments and inserted into already
existing drilled holes. In addition, missing
feathers in mask 2 were replaced with new swan feathers at
the request of Fitzhugh, who believed the restoration would return
the masks to their original impressive and powerful appearance.
Analysis of Seminole Textiles
way that conservators determine whether a material's color has
faded over time is by comparing before and after photographs
of objects. But our experience of color differences in photographic
samples is relatively subjective. A more accurate method is tristimulus
colorimetry, which measures color change quantitatively. Colorimetry
creates permanent data that is precise, accurate and reproducible.
Using the CIE L*a*b* color measurement system (see sidebar at
left), colorimetry measures differences in lightness, hue and
chroma between two samples. It can also measure the total color
ACL first used colorimetry to analyze Seminole
garments that were exhibited for twelve years (1989-2002)
in the National Museum of Natural History. When the exhibit was
originally installed, the garments were displayed using low light
levels and UV filters to reduce the deterioration and fading
of objects. However, the garments remained on display far longer
than expected and their prolonged exposure to light caused severe,
irreversible fading. Project consultant Mary Ballard (senior
textile conservator of SCMRE) proposed using instrumental color
evaluation with tristimulus colorimetry to measure the exact
extent of the fading. Jakki Godfrey, pre-program intern at the
ACL, performed the colorimetry measurements on the Seminole garments.
results of the trisimulus colorimetry test provided objective,
quantifiable evidence that the Seminole textiles faded after
a period of twelve years – even under standard low-level
exhibition lighting. As a result, the original intention
of the Seminole craftsman – the selection and juxtaposition
of certain hues – has become distorted. ACL staff plan
to perform colorimetry on fragile artifacts before they are
placed on exhibit in the future to provide a baseline against
which color change can be measured. With regular monitoring,
it should be possible to remove susceptible objects from exhibit
before a color damage limit (such as _E = 2.0) is reached.
Fragile Makah Cedar Bark Basket
researcher Melissa Peterson visited the Anthropology Department
to examine Makah cedar bark baskets, she discovered a large collapsable
basket collected by James G. Swan at Cape Flattery on the northern
coast of Vancouver in 1874. The basket was too fragile to examine,
however, because it had been sharply folded sometime before it
arrived at the Smithsonian. To make the basket flexible enough
to open safely, it was taken to the Anthropology Conservation
Lab for humidification and cleaning.
conservators opened the basket to reveal its original shape,
they noticed that its unexposed surfaces were lighter and cleaner
than the exposed surfaces, which were dark with a sooty material
(probably as a result of industrial pollution). First the soot
was carefully removed with small-celled, soft cosmetic sponges
(Qosmedix®). Then the folding creases were humidified so
that the basket could slowly be returned to an open
configuration. It was then possible to see the actual shape
of the basket, the design, and the weaving pattern. The creases
were not actually removed, only softened, because prolonged folding
had imparted a crease "memory." Many of the basket's
fibers had broken along the creases and in some cases the crease
was actually cleaved, leaving a crack in the weaving.
returning the basket to storage, the basket was placed on its
long side, which provided the most support – sitting it
on its base wasn’t an option because the edges of the base
were too broken from prolonged folding. ACL volunteer Kathy Tschappat
fashioned an interior support
from blueboard so that the interior of the basket would remain
visible for researchers and would discourage removal of the support.
In addition, the box had to support the sides with gentle pressure,
so it was tied together in
the front and back. The ties also would allow for easy removal
if that were necessary, as the sides of the box would fall away
with the tie opening.
from the Sea: A Mussel Fiber Glove
unusual hand glove, knit from mussel fiber, was brought to
the Anthropology Conservation Laboratory for rehousing by the
Museum's Division of Mollusks. The dark tan glove, originally
from Tarento, Italy, is somewhat rough to the touch. It is made
from the fiber of Pinna nobilis Linne, a mollusk species
endemic to the Mediterranean. The fiber is called byssus, a tuft
of filaments by which certain bivalves fasten themselves to rocks.
Byssus is a strong fiber and has long been used for fabrics.
The glove had been stored in a traditional Riker box (a glass-lidded box in
which fragile objects are stored on a cushion of cotton wadding under slight
pressure from the lid). Such long-term storage had resulted in a flattening
of the glove and sharp edge creasing which would be prone to fracturing over
time. For more appropriate and safer storage, we determined that the sharp
edge folds of the flattened glove needed to be relaxed and the newly configured
glove stuffed with a relatively thin material to reduce further creasing.
glove responded well to gentle humidification and the sharp folds,
particularly along the fingers, were reduced. A storage insert
was designed using Volara®, a cross-linked polyethylene foam,
pliable, but fairly stiff, and about 1/8” thick. Initially
a foam piece was cut following the contours of the glove, with
appropriately sized finger inserts to reduce stress and creasing
there. Inserting the contoured form proved difficult and potentially
damaging, stretching the glove at its opening. To solve this
problem, the insert was cut into
5 narrow pieces, one for each finger. These could be slid
into the glove with no stress. The Volara® edges were smoothed
by carefully using a heat gun and the pieces were labeled 1 through
5 so that anyone studying the glove could easily remove and replace
them. After final placing of the finger pieces, the glove was
placed on a muslin-covered cushion containing heat-bonded polyester
fiber fill made to fit exactly in a new
archival Riker box. The cushion was designed to place the
glove almost in contact with the glass of the box lid. The muslin,
which offers enough knap and friction to hinder the movement
of the glove, would not shed fibers as the cotton fibers from
the original Riker box housing had done.
one might wonder who thought of using caterpillar cocoons to
weave beautiful silk garments, one might as naturally
wonder about the use of mussel fibers in knitting. Maybe we could
call byssus the "silk of the
the previous What's New
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