Friday, 5 February 2016

Object Installation

Installation of objects into the new case is well underway.  Chris and Al, the technicians working on the case, have transferred all the mounts from the mock-up of the case to the real thing, and for the past two weeks we have been helping them with the display.

Chris installing a mount for a Maori cloak

Five Maori cloaks in position in the new case

Objects collected from the Marquesas and Easter Island

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Work Starts on Case Installation

There has been a delay of several months in installing the new Cook display because we have had to wait for the case components to off-gas. Materials such as paint and the lacquer used on the floor and back panels can give off volatile compounds as they dry, which can cause damage to museum objects in the sealed environment of the case.

Work has now begun on installing the framework of the display in the case. Technicians Chris and Al are building the structures on which the objects will be mounted, and once these are ready installation will start. Because the entire display has already been mocked up, it should be relatively easy to transfer the positions of the mounts to the real case.

The current appearance of the case

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

Friday, 21 August 2015

'A Matt Pierced with Holes'

Forster No.56 is a waist mat or kie fau from Tonga, described in the 'Catalogue of Curiosities' as 'A Matt Pierced with Holes'

Kie fau or overskirt, Tonga.  Forster 56, 1886.1.1178

We wanted to display it as an overskirt on a mount, but this caused problems.  Normally we sew velcro mounted on a strip of calico to the back of a piece of clothing in order to attach it to the mount - this is what we do with Maori cloaks, for example.  But the overskirt is made from the inner bark of the purau (Thespasia populnea), which, while flexible, is not suitable for sewing into.  The solution was to use the fact that the skirt is, as the Forsters describe in the 'Catalogue of Curiosities', 'pierced with holes' to help us.

First, a mount was made with a top and base made from ZFMDF and a thick layer of dense, inert Plastazote foam in the middle.  This was covered with polyester felt, and then fabric.

Completed mount covered in display fabric

The skirt was rolled around the mount:

Overskirt rolled around mount, making sure the holes in the overlapping layers lined up

Chris and Al, the technicians working on the case, had made 25 'staples' from copper wire, sharpened at the ends and covered with inert plastic tubing to cushion them.

A staple

The staples were the correct width to pass through adjacent holes in the skirt and into the foam mount below.

One the skirt was pinned to the mount all the way around, it was securely held in position for display.

Overskirt on mount

 Here it is in position in the mock-up of the new Cook-voyage case:

Monday, 3 August 2015

A Tongan Fishing Net

The Tongan fishing net collected by the Forsters is 8m long - too big to be displayed in its entirety.  We needed to find a way to display a part of it, while keeping most of it rolled.

When I first worked on the net, I sewed it to Tyvek, an inert non-woven fabric, so that it could be rolled for storage.  We hoped that by rolling the net and mounting the roll vertically, just the last 50cm or so of the net could be displayed, hiding the roll behind the case structure.

Chris and Al, the technicians working on the Cook-voyage re-display, made a tube for the net to be rolled around.  The indentation at the bottom was to accommodate the rocks, used as weights on the net.  The tube was made from inert polyethylene piping and zero-formaldehyde MDF, and was covered with synthetic felt.

The roll, covered with synthetic felt

The fishing net was unrolled, still attached to its Tyvek backing, and the backing was trimmed.

The fishing net unrolled in a Museum corridor

The backed net was rolled onto its new tube, leaving a short section free at the end.

The Tyvek backing was then sewn to the covering of the tube through all the layers to keep the net in place when it was mounted vertically.

This is the structure of the mock-up of the case, ready to receive the net:

The case structure ready for the mounted fishing net.  The ends of the roll will be held by the brackets at top and bottom.  The end of the net will feed through the slot and be mounted on a panel

The net was mounted in the case, and the end fed through the slot.

Feeding the end of the net through the slot in the case

The end of the net, once through the slot, was mounted on hooks which supported the rocks and the twigs used as floats.

The roll will be hidden by a panel once the display is complete