Tapa: Situating Pacific Barkcloth in Time and Place

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Barkcloth Treasures in Glasgow Museums

15th November 2016

A pre-1897 serrated circular siapo mamanu from Leone village, Tutuila, American Samoa

(above) A fine siapo mamanu in the classic style of Leone village, Tutuila, American Samoa. Pre-1897.

Over recent months, we have been building a useful collaboration with the World Cultures team of Glasgow Museums. We have many shared goals for improving our understanding, and promoting public awareness, of important Polynesian barkcloth collections in Scotland - particularly in the city of Glasgow. Due to the city’s maritime heritage and long history of scholarship and study, Glasgow Museums have accumulated a rich collection of fine tapa from the 19th Century. I was fortunate to spend three busy but satisfying days with Glasgow Museums’ curator Pat Allan, and her colleagues Katie Webbe and Ed Johnson, surveying the Glasgow Museums collection. This revealed a number of very fine cloths of great beauty and art historical value.

A finely painted salatasi waist-cover from Futuna

(above) an intricately hand-painted salatasi waist-cover from Futuna, north-western Polynesia. Pre-1897.

I was particularly delighted to find three books of barkcloth samples that our project partner, the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, had donated to the Kelvingrove Museum in the late 19th Century - part of the collection of Hawaiian kapa brought back to Britain by the Reverend Andrew Bloxam aboard HMS Blonde - much of it gifted by King Kamehameha III and Poki, Governor of Oahu - all of it dating to 1824-5. As part of the distributed Kew collection, these samples are a central to our research work, and provide a uniquely accurate picture of Hawaiian barkcloth style in the 1820s. They provide a fascinating contrast to the styles of kapa collected, for example, on James Cook’s third voyage in 1778-9, and provide an interesting impression of how barkcloth manufacture in Hawaii changed over the first fifty years of recorded collection.

Andy Mills, Research Associate: Historical

Sample book of Hawaiian kapa collected by Andrew Bloxam 1824-5

(above) a sample book of Hawaiian kapa collected on the voyage of HMS Blonde in 1824-5, reflecting a range of early styles.


Other recent news items:

Barkcloth workshops and visiting practitioners from American Samoa
18th April 2018
There have been exciting developments for the barkcloth project team recently – at the end of March we hosted a visit from two bar  More >

Tapa symposium at Auckland War Memorial Museum
8th January 2018
Andy Mills and Frances Lennard spent two weeks in New Zealand in October  More >

Two-Day Workshop at the Bishop Museum, Honolulu
29th November 2017
"Caring for Tapa" workshop will take place at the Bishop Museum in partnership with the project  More >

New Barkcloth Research at the ESfO Conference 2017
10th July 2017
Project staff and international colleagues have been publicising their barkcloth research at the 2017 ESfO conference  More >

Work at the Kew Archives is Producing Some Fascinating Insights
5th July 2017
The project's historical researcher Andy Mills has been delving into the archives of the UK's national botanical gardens at Kew  More >

Special Research Visit from Ngaa Kitai Taria Pureariki and Dr Michaela Appel
26th June 2017
Cook Islands Research Visit  More >

Adrienne Kaeppler Research Visit to Tonga
19th June 2017
Tongan kupesi design board, circa 1940  More >

Annual Advisory Committee Meeting and Museum Ethnographers Group Conference 2017
20th April 2017
The team have enjoyed a busy week hosting advisors, researchers and museum professionals here in Glasgow  More >

Volunteering for the barkcloth research project
30th March 2017
Conservation programme for the project is supported by Mphil students from Centre for Textile Conservation.  More >

Open Day 2017 - Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History
29th March 2017
The barkcloth project joined the CTCTAH's open day  More >

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