|Left: Samoan Mat PRM 1948.12.1 B with the frame backing removed|
Right: Tongan Mat PRM 1948.12.2 B in the old glass frame © Pitt Rivers Museum
|Left: Mahaffy's letter 1914; right: detail of the red and white feathers on the Samoan mat © Pitt Rivers Museum|
Both mats are likely to be pandanus leaves (a relative of palm) the finest of these reserved for fine mats. Ideal characteristics of these leaves include suppleness, colour, and the thinness of fibre. The leaf is laboriously processed with many cycles of soaking in salt and fresh water, drying and splitting repeatedly until the desired qualities are achieved. These fibres are then woven together by hand often taking six months to over a year to complete.
Having possibly spent close to a 100 years tightly packed into frames both mats had deeply impressed creases. Plus the fibres at the folds and creases were comparatively brittle compared to the supple texture of the main body. To relax the fibres I used an ultrasonic humidifier to mist water vapour across the creases, whilst gently and carefully manipulating these areas with my fingers. The creases were then weighted and left for a time.
|Left: Tongan mat crease before humidification; Middle: after humidification |
Right: Samoan mat weighting of creases and pandanus ribbons © Pitt Rivers Museum
|Left: Untangling the pandanus fringe on the Samoan mat|
Right: Detail of the zigzag design on the Tongan mat © Pitt Rivers Museum
|The Samoan mat after treatment © Pitt Rivers Museum|
Conservation and Restoration Student