It is with great sadness that we report the news of the death, on 5th March 2022, of our colleague, friend, and intellectual guide Dr Adrienne Kaeppler, Curator Emerita of Pacific Anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.
We were immensely fortunate to work with Adrienne in her role as Co-Investigator on the project Situating Pacific Barkcloth in Time and Place, which we hosted at the University of Glasgow between 2016 and 2019. All members of the team benefited enormously from Adrienne’s six decades of expertise and boundless enthusiasm for tapa. Her dynamism, knowledge, energy, and opinions propelled us forward throughout the project.
In some of the final research undertaken in an extremely long academic career, Adrienne used her involvement in the project to explore some little-known aspects of barkcloth, especially the nature of breadfruit tapa. At our request, Adrienne was also kind enough to reflect on her long career in the anthropology of Pacific art; a retrospective which we published in the project’s volume Material Approaches to Polynesian Barkcloth. That paper stands as an autobiographical testimony of one of the 20th century’s great anthropologists of Polynesia.
As well as an unparalleled authority on Tongan dance, and on the provenance of collections from Captain Cook’s voyages, Adrienne is perhaps less well-known for being one of the first anthropologists to apply structuralist analysis in Polynesian art history. Moreover, she was in many ways the quintessential art historian of Polynesia; combining those qualities which all who came after her sought to emulate.