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Anchorage Loan Conservation Project

Advancing preservation and access



Hoyo-Melendez fade test

This tunic was worn as part of a chief's full regalia. The accession record states that the tunic was acquired at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis in 1904 by Lt. Emmons. The tunic has a long exhibition history contributing to its overall deterioration, which includes fading and structural damage. However, it was considered essential for inclusion in the exhibition.

The tunic is comprised of a front panel (above left), with intricate formline designs, and a back panel (above) with broad geometric bands on a white ground and a small spirit face at the neckline. It is woven with a combination of cedar bark and white wool warps, and white, black, yellow and blue weft yarns. The weaving demonstrates complex twining techniques created by women.

The need to balance access requirements with preservation concerns for the objects selected for exhibition prompted collaborations with many specialists, such as Dr. Julio del Hoyo-Melendez (above), research fellow with the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute, who assisted with the investigation of light sensitive materials. Using a non-contact, non-destructive micro-fading tester Dr. Julio del Hoyo-Melendez's results helped conservators establish guidelines for acceptable exposure levels for light sensitive objects on long term display.

E229789_tunic_mount_notes_lg.jpg Tunic mount mock-up

Exhibit mount designs were also influenced by access and preservation concerns. The dual function of the Anchorage Museum gallery as an exhibition space and collection study area required an object mounting system that allows ongoing access and removal of objects from exhibition. To ensure object safety while meeting exhibition goals mount makers fabricated a padded insert for the tunic, fastened to a padded slant board (pictured above and at right), which reduced stress on the weak shoulders while still allowing access and removal for close examination.

As with all objects included in the Anchorage Museum loan, the tunic was installed in a mock-up of the display case in the MSC Anthropology Conservation Laboratory (shown above). In order to streamline the installation process, project conservation staff evaluated and modified object placement, access, and handling concerns and carefully documented changes and specifications before objects were shipped to Alaska.

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National Museum of Natural History | Department of Anthropology | Collections and Archives Program