Wednesday, 30 July 2014

De-installing Joseph Banks, A Great Endeavour: A Lincolnshire Gentleman and His Legacy

The Pitt Rivers Museum (PRM) loans objects to temporary exhibitions hosted at museums all around the world. Most recently we loaned 19 objects from Captain Cook's voyages to the Pacific. The PRM's Cook collections were collected by Joseph Banks, who was the botanist and naturalist on Cook's first voyage aboard the Endeavour, and Johann Reinhold Forster and Johann George Adam Forster, the two naturalists on Cook's second voyage aboard the ship Resolution. Banks sent objects collected on the voyage to his old Oxford college Christ ChurchThe collection was presumably housed at the college's Anatomy School, for which Banks's old undergraduate friend John Parsons had responsibility. In 1860 most of the collection was transferred on loan to the newly founded University Museum, and from there to the Pitt Rivers Collection where it arrived in the mid-1880s. 

Joseph Banks was born to William Banks, a wealthy Lincolnshire country squire. His link to Lincolnshire led to The Collection in Lincoln holding the exhibition Joseph Banks, A Great Endeavour: A Lincolnshire Gentleman and His Legacy. The exhibition included Cook collection objects alongside diary and journal entries and accounts from the time of the voyage and original drawings and paintings loaned by The British Museum, The Natural History Museum and the British Library among others. 

Objects crated up as the exhibition is taken down © Pitt Rivers Museum

Preparing to remove the fau, 1886.1.1683 from its display case © Pitt Rivers Museum

Many hours of work by collections and conservation staff go in to preparing objects for loan. To prepare objects for loan the PRM conservation team have to agree that the objects chosen are in good enough condition to travel and sometimes custom crates need to be made to accommodate the objects being loaned. Included in the 19 objects from the PRM selected for the exhibition was a large wickerwork and feather headdress called a fau (1886.1.1683) from Tahiti. The fau needed an extra large crate and display case to allow enough space in the case for the protruding tropicbird feathers. 

Staff from the collections team have to prepare loan agreements, arrange for photography of the objects being loaned and administration regarding transport and insurance. I also check that the cataloguing of the objects is up-to-date. When at the venue, the objects are condition checked by the PRM couriers before installing and deinstalling the objects from display. The exhibition proved very popular and after just over three months of display in Lincoln I went back the The Collection with Senior Conservator, Jeremy Uden to de-install the loan and return the objects to Oxford. 

Jeremy Uden, senior conservator condition checking objects 
before packing them in crates.  © Pitt Rivers Museum

PRM crates loaded into the truck for the return trip to Oxford © Pitt Rivers Museum

For more information about the Cook collections at the PRM please visit our new Cook Voyage Collections website. 

Faye Belsey
Assistant Curator

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Packing Museum Objects Training

Jeremy Uden demonstrating how to make
a padded board © Pitt Rivers Museum
This week the Conservation Team held a Practical Training in Packing Museum Objects course for staff working in the Museum. We were taught about best practice in packing and storing objects. The day was very hands-on with all members of the course making bespoke soft mounts, Plastazote mounts and Correx boxes.

Making soft mounts © Pitt Rivers Museum

Different members of the Conservation Team led the sessions. To make a soft mount we were taught how to make padded boards. The Team encouraged us to make different variations of Plastazote mounts - some with finger holes, Tyvek edges or fitting the contours of the object.

Making Plastazote mounts © Pitt Rivers Museum

The afternoon session saw the group make Correx boxes to house the mounts made in the morning. The boxes could be customised with windows of Melinex to view the objects inside.

Making a Correx box with Melinex windows © Pitt Rivers Museum

Madeleine Ding
Assistant Curator

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

New Accessions

In 2009 Deryn O'Connor generously donated to the Museum a collection of more than 200 textiles made by the Miao people of Guizhou Province, southwest China. Textiles are very important in the life of the Miao people. Their costumes are an expression of group identity and cohesion, as well as of the individual’s standing within a group. 

The Miao are particularly well known for their richly woven and embroidered festival costumes. The cloth, usually woven on traditional looms, is made of hemp and ramie bast fibres grown in the region. They use a range of decorative techniques on the textiles, including wax resist, appliqué, and expertly executed embroidery stitches in silks and cotton. 

Cataloguing this interesting collection was an opportunity to look closely at these textiles and the techniques used. If you visit the Museum you can see some of these for yourself on display in the new acquisitions case in the ground floor Court Gallery. Alternatively you can see and explore the whole collection for yourself via the Museum's online database.

Wax resist dyed cotton textile; 2009.135.70 © Pitt Rivers Museum
Woman's jacket with silk embroidery and appliqué; 2009.135.8 
© Pitt Rivers Museum

Detail of the hem of pleated skirt showing wax resist dyed decoration, 
embroidery and cotton appliqué design; 2009.135.39 
© Pitt Rivers Museum

Detail of embroidery showing minute cross stitch embroidered pattern; 
2009.135.47 © Pitt Rivers Museum

Detail of silk embroidery in satin stitch on green silk paper background 
from an apron; 2009.135.54 © Pitt Rivers Museum

Wax resist dyed cotton textile. Dyed with indigo and embroidered 
with coloured silk yarns. Piece for a baby carrier; 2009.135.69 
© Pitt Rivers Museum

Faye Belsey
Assistant Curator

To read more about Miao textiles:

O'Connor, Deryn, 1994.  "Miao Costumes"  James Hockey Gallery, WSCAD, Farnham. Catalogue to coincide with the 1994 exhibition at the West Surrey College of Art and Design. Most of the costumes illustrated were then in the collection of Gina Corrigan whose location photos illustrate the text plus studio shots of the exhibition costumes. Deryn O'Connor was until 1990 Principal Lecturer in Textiles at WSCAD and was responsible for much of the research. Excellent reference work with beautiful photos both in China and in the studio.

Corrigan, Gina, 2001.  "Miao Textiles from China" Fabric Folios series published by The British Museum Press. The costumes are in the British Museum collection and most were collected by Gina Corrigan. Helpful reference work with excellent photos.

Smith, Ruth with Textiles from The Gina Corrigan Collection. Researchers: Margaret Baker, Gina Corrigan, Ros Downing, Marianne Ellis, Cobi Erskine, Deryn O’Connor, Thea Nield, Jeni Pinel, Phyllis Smith, Ruth Smith, 2005.  "Miao Embroidery from South West China" Occidor Ltd. The impetus for the book arose from the study of the collection of costume and textiles brought back from China by Gina Corrigan. This book is an attempt to record some of the embroidery stitches and techniques before they disappear. Ten researchers, some of whom have visited Miao villages, have analysed and recorded the decorative stitch techniques in the collection and these are illustrated with Gina’s photographs. The focus of the investigation has been the most highly decorated items of Miao clothing, namely the women’s festival jackets, skirts, aprons and baby carriers.