The Pacific barkcloth team had a busy week at the beginning of April. We welcomed our advisory panel members for a visit – together we examined some of the barkcloths from the Hunterian collection, discussed the work in progress and heard reports from the three researchers, Historical Research Associate Dr Andy Mills, Scientific Research Associate Dr Margaret Smith and Conservation Researcher Misa Tamura, demonstrating the enormous progress towards the research goals made by all three in the first year of the project.
The meeting was followed by the Museum Ethnographers Group 2017 conference, hosted by the Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History and the Hunterian Museum. We were very pleased to welcome delegates from around the UK and Europe as well as from the USA, Australia and New Zealand to the conference. Presentations over two days focused on artefacts from a huge range of cultures around the world including a Tahitian mourner’s costume, Crowfoot regalia, Guatemalan weaving, indigo dyed textiles, and barkcloth from Africa and Indonesia as well as the Pacific.
Pacific barkcloth was a significant focus. Our own researchers discussed aspects of their work: Dr Adrienne Kaeppler talked about cultural signatures which aid identification of Polynesian barkcloths; Dr Mark Nesbitt and Brittany Curtis discussed the textiles collected by the 1867 voyage of HMS Galatea, and Dr Andy Mills spoke on the making practices of combining barkcloths into large sheets, and their resonance with the later division of cloths for ceremonial purposes as well as by European collectors. Other collections of Pacific barkcloth also featured, including those of National Museums Scotland and Aberdeen University Museums. Please see details of the programme on the MEG website – some of the papers will be published in the Journal of Museum Ethnography.
Delegates were able to enjoy a whistle-stop tour of the Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History one lunchtime, or could spend time assessing some interesting ethnographic objects from the Hunterian collection, and en route admiring the new Kelvin Hall search room facilities. The conference reception was held in the Hunterian Museum and was a great opportunity to see the museum displays, catch up with old friends and to meet new colleagues.
The conference was a fascinating and inspiring two days, ably organised by Andy Mills, supported by Isabel Robinson, the barkcloth project administrator, and a team of student volunteers.