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The Feathered Headdress from the Austral Islands at The Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels: The Conservation of a Masterpiece

Griet Kockelkoren, Hugo DeBlock, Emma Damen and Marina Van Bos

Abstracts

This contribution mainly focusses on the recent research and conservation of a feathered headdress from the Austral Islands in the collections of The Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels. It goes into several steps and choices of curation and conservation, and proposes steps for the future of exhibiting such valuable and significant things of cultural heritage and indigenous property.

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Introduction: Austral Islands Art

1The (art) history of the Austral Islands was heavily disrupted by colonialism and the missions, as was the case for many other parts of Polynesia and the wider Pacific. A few monographs were written about the island group, which is situated South of Tahiti and Southwest of the Cook Islands and Tonga (e.g. Aitken 1930, Brunor 1969, Richards 2012). As Terence Barrow has noted in Art of Tahiti in a chapter devoted to the Austral Islands: “[b]ecause [European] contacts were brief and sporadic, very little was recorded of their ancient culture or the background to their traditional arts which, in many ways, are the finest of East Polynesia” (Barrow 1979: 51). Considering the pieces of Austral Islands arts and material culture that are held by museums, it is clear that they are indeed “high art”- and/or “masterpieces” (which are contested categories in themselves, infused by monetary value and market mechanisms). Moreover, many of these and other artworks lack detailed ethnographic context or details about their acquisition and provenance. Obscuring the provenance of these “exotic things” is often their first characteristic, shifting in and out of different contexts, from curiosities to scientific specimens and into examples of “tribal art”, while being acquired in dubious circumstances: they were exchanged, traded, sold, or often stolen in violent colonial circumstances.

  • 1 The A’a is shown in almost all major books on Pacific art (e.g. Kaeppler et al 1993: ills. 19, 20, (...)

2Probably the best-known artwork from the Austral Islands and Polynesia and, by extension, the Pacific, is the finely carved wooden figure of the god A’a from the island of Rurutu, presented on Raiatea to representatives of the London Missionary Society by a group of people from Rurutu in 1821 as a sign of their conversion. The piece is kept in the British Museum, together with a well-preserved headdress with red feather pompoms, most likely also from Rurutu and most probably collected by George Bennet of the London Missionary Society between 1821 and 1824.1 Other known objects from the region include intricately crafted fly whisks and finely carved drums, paddles and ladles. Nicholas Thomas, for example, on the cover of Oceanic Art, shows a beautifully crafted fly whisk from Tubuai in the Austral Islands Group (Thomas 1995: cover photograph; for further discussion on Austral whisk handles, see Rose 1979).

3Captain Cook passed by Rurutu on his first voyage in August 1769 but did not anchor nor did he or any of his men disembark. Joseph Banks, botanist on Cook’s first voyage, did give a description of the tools and implements and specifically highlighted the “high quality of their canoes and weapons” (Beaglehole 1974: 196, 549). Cook also passed Tubuai in 1777 during his second voyage. On Tubuai, as on Rurutu, he did not disembark to go on land. Yet, as Bolton Corney has noted, several locals came out to the ship and, again, notes were made about the canoes, clothing and other details (Corney 1915: 77). Raivavae was first visited in 1775 by the Spaniards Tomas Gayangos and José de Andia y Varela. The Spanish, who had Tahitian speakers on board, obtained “a string of mother of pearl shells, a paddle, and a spear made of very good wood which looks as if turned on a lathe” (Corney 1915: 177). Unfortunately, there has been no further trace of these early objects in any museum (Richards 2012: 11).

4From 1800 onwards, the Austral Islands became a destination for traders and whalers as well as missionaries sent by Pomare II of Tahiti, who had converted to Christianity. In 1789 the Bounty mutineers had made an attempt to settle on Tubuai, and a relatively large number of beachcombers and runaways moved around the islands in the years following, of which, again, we know little (Hooper 2006: 193). The Reverends William Ellis and George Bennet visited Rurutu in 1822 and Bennet visited Raivavae in 1823-1824 (ibid: 193). The Austral Islands were annexed as a colony by France in the 1880s and until today, together with the Society Islands (including Tahiti), the Tuamotu Archipelago, and the Marquesas and Gambier Islands, remain part of French Polynesia as a “Territoire d’Outre-Mer” of France in the South Pacific.

5Especially between the Society Islands (the Kingdom of Tahiti; the Royal House of Pomare) and the Austral Islands, there was a lot of contact and exchange. This raises questions of provenance concerning objects “from” Tahiti and the Austral Islands. Certain objects are thought to have been commissioned in the Austral Islands by Tahitians but, also, similarities occur between Austral and Cook Islands material culture and art. Moreover, specifically feather adornments and feathered headdresses occurred in wide-ranging areas from the Marquesas Islands (and beyond; from Rapa Nui, or Easter Island) to the Cook Islands and Tonga.

Fig. 1 “Idols Worshipped by the Inhabitants of the South Sea Islands”

Fig. 1 “Idols Worshipped by the Inhabitants of the South Sea Islands”

Engraving, frontispiece of Vol. II of William Ellis’ book, Polynesian Researches (1829), showing front and side of the A’a statue, held in the collections of the British Museum in London.

Credit Hugo DeBlock

History of the Austral Islands-Brussels headdress

6The feathered headdress from the Austral Islands, kept in the collections of the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels, which is the focus of this contribution, has recently undergone a conservation treatment by the textile department of the Koninklijk Instituut voor het Kunstpatrimonium (KIK-IRPA, Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage) in Brussels, Belgium. It is one of the earliest pieces owned by the museum. Due to the fragile state it is in, it has not been on display for a while. The museum catalogue Topstukken van het JubelparkmuseumMasterpieces of the Cinquantenaire Museum (2015) shows the headdress, as does an earlier catalogue by former museum curator Francina Forment (1982). The heading in the museum’s 2015 Masterpieces catalogue reads:

7In Polynesia, headdresses often refer to the very hierarchic structures of island communities. This headdress is of considerable size and probably belonged to a highly ranked dignitary whose position, as is usual for this region, was characterized by ostentatious attributes. The headdress is composed of bird feathers, shell fragments and human hair. Each composite part has its meaning. Birds and sea animals, that make up the fauna of these islands in the Pacific Ocean, evoke the world of the gods. Feathers, bone and shells thus become ornaments that hold a profound metaphoric value. The Polynesians associate life power with hair, more precisely with the hair buns that the men wear on the top of their head (excerpt from the Masterpieces catalogue 2015, text on page 144, illustration 90; our translation from Dutch).

8The headdress was donated to the then Musée de la Porte de Hal in Brussels by Gustave Hagemans on the 12th of May 1857. It was catalogued as object number G68 by Théodore Juste, curator at the then Musée Royal d’Antiquités, d’Armetures, et d’Artillerie. Hagemans was a Belgian politician, archaeologist, and collector. He donated the headdress as one in a pair that was described by Juste as “two feathered headdresses, of savages, one of which being of extraordinary dimensions” (Juste 1864: 361, our translation from French). The museum inventory shows that the larger Austral Islands headdress was then wrongly categorized as Native American. The second, smaller one was probably Pre-Columbian. Not much later, another provenance, on another inventory card, stated: “Immense headdress in the form of a diadem, composited of feathers and shells, Marquesas. In bad condition” (our translation from French). By then, the inventory number had changed into 3292. The headdress was still kept inside the Porte de Hal Museum. It is remarkable that by the second half of the 19th century the object was already described as being in a bad condition. Today, it is kept in the Art and History Museum, also known as the Cinquantenaire Museum, built as such in 1880 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the independence of Belgium. The Art and History Museum is part of a cluster of five federal museums in Brussels that make up the Royal Museums of Art and History, including the still functioning Halle Gate Museum (Musée de la Porte de Hal), the Musical Instruments Museum, the Museums of the Far East, and the Temple of Human Passions, which is a neoclassical pavilion in the form of a Greek temple that was built by Belgian Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta in the Cinquantenaire Park in 1898.

9The first published mention of the Austral-Brussels headdress was by British ethnologist James Edge-Partington in a volume that he co-published with Charles Heape: An Album of Weapons, Tools, Ornaments, Articles of Dress of the Natives of the Pacific Islands (1890-1898). Edge-Partington, like his predecessors, made a couple of mistakes: he referred to the Halle Gate Museum in Antwerp instead of Brussels and he attributed the piece to Tahiti. Later, when the former collections of the Musée Royal d’Antiquités, d’Armetures, et d’Artillerie merged into what is now the bulk of the Royal Museums of Art and History, another new inventory card was added and the number changed to ET1365, which remains the headdress’s number today. On this inventory card, Edge-Partington’s Tahitian attribution remained. During WWII, Henri Lavachery, curator at the museum from 1942 and remembered for the Easter Island expedition he undertook with Swiss anthropologist Alfred Métraux in 1934-1935, also concluded that the headdress was most probably of Tahitian origin. However, not much later, Lavachery changed his opinion, due to his correspondence with the acclaimed Sir Peter Henry Buck, also known as Te Rangi Hiroa, then Director of the Berenice P. Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawai’i. According to Te Rangi Hiroa, a comparable, almost identical piece was kept at the Peabody Museum at Harvard University and attributed to the island of Raivavae. Lavachery adjusted the inventory card, adding this valuable information. In 1982, Francina Forment of the museum acknowledged the Austral Islands and Raivavae provenance (1982: 105).

Fig. 2 Feathered headdress, before treatment

Fig. 2 Feathered headdress, before treatment

Feathered headdress, before treatment, in the collections of the Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels, donated to the then Musée Royal d’Antiquités, d’Armetures, et d’Artillerie in 1857 and recently conserved by the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA: Koninlijk Instituut voor het Kunstpatrimonium), Brussels. Used materials: 4 types of feathers, human hair, shell, cane, coconut fiber and barkcloth. Image before conservation treatment.

© Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis.

Links with the Peabody Museum and the British Museum Objects

  • 2 Metropolitan Museum of Art, exhibition Atea: Nature and Divinity in Polynesia, November 19, 2018 – (...)

10The headdress from the Peabody Museum, attributed to Raivavae, that Te Rangi Hiroa brought to the attention of Henri Lavachery is indeed almost identical to the Austral-Brussels headdress. The Peabody headdress was displayed in 2018-19 in Atea: Nature and Divinity in Polynesia, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. 2The online entry for the headdress mentions some contextual information on such singular pieces.

11"The arch of this spectacular headdress evokes the vaulted dome of the sky. Its dazzling, cosmologically charged feathers and sections of shell, which Polynesians valued for their rarity and shimmer, held the power to act as divine conduits. Thought to be directly descended from the first line of creator gods -described in origin chants as feathered beings - the warrior-chiefs who wore such headdresses did so to reinforce their sanctity and legitimize their right to rule. (…)

12Across Polynesia, ritual artifacts were created for the powerful chiefs who descended from gods and who, as political and religious leaders, were imbued with the spiritual essence (mana) of their forbears. Prestige items such as feather cloaks and headdresses reinforced their status and reputation and asserted genealogical connections with their divine ancestors".3

13The Peabody headdress is attributed to the island of Raivavae in the Austral Group of French Polynesia and dated early 19th century. It is described as consisting of feathers of various kinds (including jungle fowl, Pacific black duck, and lorikeet (Vina Kura)), shells, bark cloth, human hair, cane, and various fibers. Its dimensions are H. 43 5/16 × W. 43 5/16 × D. 8 1/4 inches (110 × 110 × 21 cm), and its provenance is traced back to the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts (as Gift of the Heirs of David Kimball, 1899) and, prior, the former Peale Museum in Philadelphia, established as such by Charles Willson Peale in 1784. In the Atea catalogue, curator Maia Nuku attributes it to the 18th century and to the Austral Islands, adding that its provenance is probably Ra’ivavae (Nuku 2019: 24). In the museum catalogue, she adds that the arch of the Peabody headdress “contains four different types of feathers, which frame a central raised section of finely cut Tridacna (clam) shells offset by a barkcloth-wrapped fiber helmet and net of human hair that hangs down the back” (Nuku 2019: 24) She also adds that: “[T]he range of materials is a bold visual index that underpins island cosmologies and signals chiefly dominion over the distinct realms of the land, sea, and sky.” (ibid: 24)

Fig. 3 Feathered headdress, Peabody Museum

Fig. 3 Feathered headdress, Peabody Museum

Feathered headdress in the collections of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, exhibited in 2018-19 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York during Atea: Nature and Divinity in Polynesia.

© Peabody Museum

14A second comparable object is kept at the British Museum in London. The outside arch of feathers of this object, which could be a headdress or a pectoral, is shorter than of those of the Brussels and Peabody Museum headdresses. Adrienne Kaeppler shows a photograph of the British Museum object and adds that it might be a pectoral instead of a headdress (in Kaeppler, Kaufmann and Newton 1993: ill. 88, p. 133). She adds that the provenance is Austral Islands but does not furthermore specify, and provides the sizes: 54x31 cm (ibid: 133). Illustration 91 in the same book shows a chiefs’ headdress from Tonga (“Coiffure de Chef”) that bears resemblance to that of the Austral Islands and that is kept at the Museum für Volkerkunde in Vienna (ibid: ill. 91, p. 133). However, recent research by Billie Lythberg suggests that the provenance for this headdress is not Tongan but instead Eastern Polynesian (Lythberg 2014). Phyllis Herda and Billie Lythberg also wrote an extensive article in the Journal of the Polynesian Society on one specific fanned feathered headdress from Tonga and the local significance of such headdresses, entitled “Featherwork and Divine Chieftainship in Tonga” (Herda and Lythberg 2014). The article deals with a Tongan headdress that was “rediscovered” in storage at Madrid’s Museo de América (ibid: 277). As Herda and Lythberg illustrate, the production of this type of headdress came to a halt in Tonga, sometime during the late 18th or early 19th centuries. “The headdresses were part of the regalia of the Tu’i Tonga (the traditional sacred ruler of Tonga) and became redundant by the early 19th century with the rise of the Tupou Dynasty and the decline and eventual elimination of the Tu’i Tonga title” (ibid: 277). With leadership going through many different changes throughout the area in this period - when the Brussels-Austral headdress made its way to Europe - it is not hard to assume that such pieces, the regalia of transformed and transforming power, came increasingly into circulation.

Fig. 4 Headdress or pectoral

Fig. 4 Headdress or pectoral

Headdress or pectoral attributed to the Austral Islands and kept in the British Museum, London.

© British Museum

Keeping and Safeguarding for the Future

15Within current settings of the decolonization of museums, provenance research on objects such as the headdress in Brussels is becoming increasingly important. Such provenance research work is often long overdue, with museum collections having been piled up in basements and vaults for many decades, without much attention, or leads for their provenance and collection contexts. In light of the current decolonization- and restitution movements and debates, people are raising their voices, voices that were kept silent for a long time. The urge of provenance research in order to reconstruct collection histories in colonial contexts of uneven power relations, is now very clear and relevant (See ICOM checklist on ethics of cultural property ownership). Museums can no longer exhibit “high art” objects in their collections without being at least critical about their lack of provenance details and other contextual information. Indigenous people are becoming increasingly visible as museum staff, and museum staff are increasingly developing close connections and ‘new good practices’ with indigenous people (Swierenga 2021 : 3), which opens possibilities for reconnections through handling, viewing and accessing knowledge and significance embodied in these objects in their local/historic contexts.

  • 4 As the ICOM Code of Ethics state: The museum should establish and apply policies to ensure that its (...)

16In addition to researching provenance, museums have a duty to keep and safeguard the items they hold in as good and safe a condition as practicable, having regard to current knowledge and resources4. Due to lack of funds, personnel, or simply because of the sheer volumes of collections, gaps have occurred in museum practice. The fact that the Austral Islands headdress in the collections of the Art and History Museum was relatively hidden for so long, at least when compared with its Peabody Museum double, testifies of this kind of challenge in past museum practice. The relatively recent “rediscovery” of a Tongan feathered headdress in the Museo de América in Madrid is another example. That these hitherto hidden and marvelous objects of cultural history are finally receiving the attention they deserve, and that the Brussels headdress is currently being conserved for the future, signifies an important way for this object to move forward in future museum work. After conservation, the aim in Brussels is to be able to exhibit the Austral Islands headdress. Reintroducing the headdress by for example exhibition and making it more easily available to larger publics as well as academics, brings this age-old piece of Austral Islands cultural history back to the fore.

17In the next section, we will go into the context of the conservation of this particular Austral Islands headdress in the Art and History Museum by the textile conservation team at the KIK-IRPA (The Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage) in Brussels. As conservation experts and advising anthropologist, in this article we have chosen not to go into detail on the conservation methods- and materials, but we will rather outline the choices and dilemmas, and the many question marks (some of which remain today) and responsibilities in dealing with such an ancient valuable.

The Conservation Treatment of the Headdress: Preserving the Material Object, or should we aim to preserve something else… ?

18Aware of and in essence in agreement with the broadened perspectives on contemporary museum work, conservators Griet Kockelkoren and Emma Damen approached the treatment or, rather, the process of conservation of this unique object, with great care and much reflection.

19An object composed out of four types of feathers, human hair, shell, cane, coconut fiber and bark cloth is a challenge for every conservator. And although some materials are ‘more ‘common than others for a textile conservator, since this object might be categorized as a ‘clothing accessory’, there is logic in the fact that it has found its way into the Textile Conservation Studio of the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA) in Brussels. A first pressing and challenging question for the conservators was: what exactly is it about this object that we want to preserve? Do we want to preserve the material integrity of the object, in its present state? Do we want to focus on traces of usage? Or is there something else that is important to preserve, regarding context, meaning and (inherent) values? (Significance 2.0) The more ‘complete’ story of heritage objects, especially of those of ‘use’, is often to be read in their material biography. Therefore conservators are rarely solely interested in the most original state of an object. When looking at this kind of heritage objects often the question really is: how can we ensure that all the significant (Significance 2.0) aspects of the object are preserved and that during the treatment nothing that might have cultural-historical value, social value or use value, is removed. Follow-up considerations are unavoidably: how far are we willing to go in our treatment and in facilitating the ‘use’ (Brokerhof, 2006: 2) of the object? And within this process what are we willing to lose? And what does the current material state and condition of the object, that will unavoidably determine the conceptual and practical possibilities or limitation for future use, allow?

Fig. 5 Front view of the headdress before treatment

Fig. 5 Front view of the headdress before treatment

Dimensions: 110 x 150 cm. A wooden mannequin-head, that was a decades old mount, was glued onto the inside in order for the headdress to hold its shape for exhibition. The ribbon in bark cloth with tassels has come off. (cliché X127172)

© KIK-IRPA, Brussels

Fig. 6 Headdress before treatment

Fig. 6 Headdress before treatment

Back view of the headdress before treatment (cliché X127184).

© KIK-IRPA, Brussels

20Preserving not only the ‘material object’ but rather ‘preserving what is valued’, is not a new concept in contemporary conservation practice. However, it does require a certain mind-shift and yet again raises questions about the meaning of preservation, the meaning of use, the intrinsic meaning of an object and the meaning of the integrity of the object. For some objects and cultures, this could mean that both the continued use (intangible) and the material preservation (tangible) are equally important and both have to be weighed within the preservation concept (Clavir 2002, Peters 2008: 186, ). When an object enters the KIK-IRPA’s textile conservation-studio, usually our first aim is the gathering and documenting of all kinds of information. Firstly we try and understand the material state, condition and construction of the object. This research phase provides essential information in order to determine the conservation needs, where we try to identify the discrepancy between condition and meaning, the treatment options, the consequences of treatment options and the possibilities for ‘future use’ as stated earlier (Brokerhof 2006: 2, Swierenga 2021: 6, Wisse 2005: 122).

  • 5 Insitutions with similar objects as mentioned by Hugo De Block. Special thanks to Maia Nuku, Christ (...)

21During our preliminary research, the textile conservation team of the KIK-IRPA was assisted by Nicholas Cauwe, curator at the Art and History Museum in Brussels and keeper of the Austral headdress, and anthropologist Hugo DeBlock, co-author of this contribution. They helped tremendously in adding necessary contextual information on the meaning, value, and use of such adornments in Eastern Polynesia (ibid, see above). Many other encounters and colleagues helped to find conservators and curators throughout the world, that have the few similar or related objects, that are known to exist, in their care.5 Also the discussion and exchange with them concerning many (mostly very material-technical) aspects, created a much better understanding of the headdress that’s in the care of the KIK-IRPA’s conservation studio.

  • 6 Since the conservators in KIK-IRPA’s Textile Conservation Studio are solely made-up of woman, this (...)
  • 7 They were used to protect the object from insect damage in museum pest management protocols.

22Many questions are unresolved, but the disclosed information has in many ways supported the following steps and decisions concerning the conservation treatment. Some of the questions that were raised and that remain were: who was or could this object be seen by/touched by6/worn by?, and what was its symbolic meaning?, ritual?, spiritual? The headdress has suffered a lot of material loss over time. Visually, the dominant features and materials look very different from how they looked originally and some are almost completely gone. The colors and brilliance of the red and white feathers for example is what has mostly faded, and many are missing. So we wanted to know what specific material elements present embody symbolic meaning. Understanding how the headdress was worn during its active lifetime, was another key question, not only in understanding the construction, but also in relation to designing the conservation mount for display. Next to this, found trace materials needed to be identified and interpreted, and connected to the material biography, not just in relation to the objects original use but also traces of the headdress’ museum life such as insect repellent7, for example, where identified.

Material - technical and Scientific Investigation of the Headdress

23The material-technical description and research of the object usually go hand in hand with the condition survey. To be able to interpret and to be able to distinguish between traces of ‘significance/value’ and ‘undesired change’ that could be referred to as damage, is always a challenging step. (Stansiforth 1994: 218-223, Ashley-Smith 1995) There is never or rarely one simple answer. And even if we do not understand everything at this moment in time, we also want to have a clear view on what we do not know, so we can preserve and hopefully unravel the significance of these aspects in the future.

  • 8 Conservation Department, Lab Department, Documentation Department. https://www.kikirpa.be/fr/
  • 9 High resolution macro images as well as the UV-images where taken by Stéphane Bazzo, Documentation (...)
  • 10 These photos can be consulted on BALaT, the KIK-IRPA’s on-line database (http://balat.kikirpa.be/se (...)

24The Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage is formed of clusters of departments8 and specialists who advise and support each other interdisciplinary, in order to obtain as much information as possible about the material state of any object that enters its conservation studios. The collaborations with many colleagues within the KIK-IRPA proved to be another instrumental step to complete the information-puzzle. Thorough observation of the headdress with the naked eye was complemented by high resolution macro photographs taken by KIK-IRPA’s photographers9, allowing to zoom in on details that would otherwise have remained difficult to see. Further in the scientific imagining unit, the object was examined and photographed under various lighting conditions.10

  • 11 Marina Van Bos, co-author of this article and head of the paper, leather and parchment laboratory f (...)
  • 12 What's Eating Your Collection is a website to help you understand what integrated pest management i (...)
  • 13 Basic precaution is to avoid breathing or entering on direct contact with arsenic, therefore we use (...)

25The UV image, for example, was a valuable tool for cleaning as it revealed the location of dust particles, allowing for their careful removal. The UV image also often gives a first indication of the use of pesticides. At first, nothing popped up, which initially gave a false sense of safety. Analyses performed by conservation-scientist Marina Van Bos11, showed traces of arsenic, which is a very toxic substance. The extent of insect damage on the headdress is considerable. Previous caretakers aimed to protect it from insects, both via ‘good housekeeping’ and by using toxic substances that, although banished now due to their toxicity for humans, were very common during part of the 20th century.12 (Uden 2014) Because it was not possible to remove all the arsenic residues, caution was and remains required.13

Fig. 7 Detail

Fig. 7 Detail

Detail of materials in the headdress (cliché X127181).

© KIK-IRPA, Brussels

  • 14 X-ray image (radiography) taken by Catherine Fondaire, Documentation department, KIK-IRPA Brussels.

26The X-ray image14 on its turn exposed another interesting abnormality. When the object arrived in the KIK-IRPA’s textile conservation studio, a wooden mannequin-head, that was a decades old mount, was attached with adhesives on the inside of the object, in order for the headdress to hold its shape for exhibition, as seen in illustration 6. The X-ray image revealed the position of the wooden head that is clearly out of center. It also showed the presence of several metal wires that were added to the headdress at a later date to reinforce weakened points. They were mostly invisible to the naked eye. Even though these elements are part of the ‘museum life’ of the object, in order to avoid further damage and deformation, the wooden head and the metal wires needed to be removed during treatment. Knowing their exact location within the object, was essential to allow careful removal with minimal manipulation of this very fragile object.

Fig. 8 Radiography

Fig. 8 Radiography

Radiography of the headdress

© KIK-IRPA, Brussels

27The use of the Hirox (digital) microscope was another essential tool that helped to get detailed information about the material construction of the headdress. Firstly it highlighted the beautiful braided coconut fiber webbing that forms the base of the decorative parts and the manner of attachment of all the separate elements that form the object. Secondly, it helped to examine the construction manner of the various feathers present in the headdress. Observation revealed small remainders of red, green and yellow feathers that bear witness of a once colorful state of the headdress. These beautiful feathers were, however, also attractive to insects, leading to serious deterioration, which explains the previously described historic attempts and actions to protect the headdress from insect attacks. Another interesting aspect was found in the arch of the darker outer feathers. A closer look determined that each feather is made of two or three assembled feathers attached with coconut fiber, in order to form one long feather.

Fig. 9 Hirox-pictures

Fig. 9 Hirox-pictures

Hirox-pictures from the feathers and coconutfiber.

© KIK-IRPA

  • 15 Via Nicolas Cauwe, Curator at the Art and History Museum in Brussels and keeper of the Austral head (...)
  • 16 Link to the object page on BaLAT http://balat.kikirpa.be/object/20061641 Link last visited on the 9(...)
  • 17 Some changes can be directly linked to ageing and deterioration, others are clearly due to human in (...)

28In addition to the archives of the Art and History Museum15, another tool used in order to uncover more of the object’s museum life, is BaLAT16, the search engine of KIK-IRPA’s databases. It contains multiple pictures of the headdress, taken at different dates in time. The oldest picture we found dates from the 1930’s, the next ones from 1936, 1941 and 1951. The fact that there are so many pictures in the database shows that the headdress was indeed valued from very early on as ‘important heritage’ by the museum’s curators. These images showed the object’s condition at various points in time and gave an indication of what had changed on a material level17. The bark cloth ribbon with tassels that is now detached, was attached in the older pictures (how exactly is unfortunately not visible). Over time, the shells have been slightly repositioned and some outer feathers were visibly added.

Further Questions

29After all this material and research of ‘meaning’, there is still no absolute certainty on how the headdress was worn, but we suggest, supported by various research and old images, that it was worn vertically on the head of the wearer. The exhibition mount, newly made to measure, is designed to specifically meet this suggestion as much as possible, keeping in to account the fragile state of the object. It remains unknown where and how exactly the bark cloth ribbon with tassels was attached and how the tassels where organized originally. Since we were unable to find an existing similar object as reference, we decided to reattach the ribbon with tassels in a very reversible way. Even if the attachment manner might not be correct, this mitigates the risk of dissociation.

30Another ‘unknown’ lies in a substance that was detected on the longer feathers that cannot, to date, be analyzed or identified in a non-invasive way. It is a greasy matter that might be linked to ritual usage or, again, linked to the later museum life of the object. Since, currently, we have no way to be sure, we have left this substance untouched and in place throughout the conservation treatment. (Hudson 2013 : 8)

  • 18 In this respect we have been in contact with Thierry Backeljau, head of the operational directorate (...)

31In the treatment choices, we have aimed to make sure that every aspect of possible significance remains researchable in the future. Next to the information that was currently assembled directly to support the conservation treatment and choices, it would be interesting to take the material research further to help support and expand the knowledge concerning this object for other related fields and researchers. For example, the material analyses that was stated in old records of the Art and History Museum will be checked again in the coming time by colleagues within the National History Museum in Brussels18. DNA analyses might give insight in whether the hair in the headdress belonged to a man or a woman and to know the age of this or these person(s).

Conservation treatment

32Due to the unique character of the object and due to the fact that its meaning and symbolism is so tightly interwoven within its materiality, it was decided that minimal intervention was the much preferred option, where possible, for the treatment. Only the removal of the rather recent additions such as the old exhibition-mount (the wooden head) that was glued to the headdress, and the removal of the ‘reinforcement’ threads, were more drastic choices, but necessary for a durable conservation of the object in the future.

  • 19 Many thanks to Francisco Mederos-Henry for the analysis of the adhesive.

33We will not elaborate on every detail of the conservation treatment, only the most striking aspects will be mentioned here. Firstly, the headdress was carefully dusted feather by feather, fiber by fiber, hair by hair... Afterwards a more profound, but just as careful cleaning of the shell and feathers was carried out. Meanwhile, the adhesive of the wooden head was analyzed in the KIK-IRPA’s laboratories19. This allowed to select an appropriate solvent for the heads removal. The chosen working method proved very time consuming, but this was necessary to minimize material loss and material stress on the bark cloth during the removal of this mount. Hidden from sight for many decades, the inside of the headdress was finally revealed as seen in illustration 10. The amazing structure reminds of a beehive. It forms the basis of the helmet to which the decorative structure in coconut fiber is attached. This action also exposed another previous intervention of wooden slats and nylon thread, that supposably aimed to reinforce the attachment of the ‘fan’ to the ‘helmet’. This added construction, caused deformation and tension once again, and needed to be removed. This caused the headdress to naturally fall back in its ‘original shape’. We will never know why the previous mount was deliberately designed to pull the object ‘out of shape’, but the release of stress on the object was instantly noticeable and will prove very important for the future preservation and appreciation of the headdress.

34This brought the conservation treatment to the next challenge in the process: the consolidation of the bark cloth on the inside of the helmet.

Fig.10 Inside helmet

Fig.10 Inside helmet

Inside helmet after removal of the old mount before treatment (cliché X128751)

© KIK-IRPA, Brussels

  • 20 Collaboration between the Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History in Glasgow, the (...)
  • 21 https://www.tapa.gla.ac.uk/ Link last visited on the 9th of December 2021.

35The treatment of the tapa, or bark cloth, was a first time treatment for our textile conservation studio. It coincided with the three-year research project “Tapa: Situating Pacific Barkcloth Production in Time & Place”. The outcome of this research project20 contributed to better understanding and interpretation of this material and its conservation needs and treatment possibilities according to the best and most durable current practice(s)21. The newly gained knowledge was successfully put in practice and layer by layer the bark cloth was re-attached and re-inforced.

36Furthermore, during the conservation treatment we could see why previous attempts were made in the past to reinforce many original attachments within the object, due to their great frailty. Every single attachment point was scrupulously checked and where needed, they were yet again reinforced, but this time with a minimum of intervention in the material state of the object and we took great care not to create any form of ‘stress’. The overall structure remains fragile, but this treatment will greatly contribute to reduce future material loss.

37As mentioned, no original parts remain detached, which mitigates the risk of dissociation.22

38All ‘material traces and aspects’ that where part of the ‘active life’ of the object, so before the headdress became a heritage object, where left in place and therefore remain researchable for the future. However, even though the treatment contributes to the durable preservation of the material object, the material loss that has occurred over time is irreversible and the overall loss of structural strength can never be recovered.

Perspectives for the Future

39The materials used to construct the headdress remain incredibly fragile, and the many embrittled attachment points impact the entire object. All this leaves the headdress, even after treatment, very sensitive to even the slightest of physical forces.23 Therefore, finding a way to limit direct handling in the future is a necessity. To this effect a custom made museum mount is developed 24. This mount follows every curve of the object and will provide the headdress with complete support during all possible situations such as manipulation, preservation, transport and exhibition, thus minimizing the risk of damage in an important manner. The mount will be created in such a way that even during the switch from exhibit to museum storage, the need to touch the object directly will no longer exist. During display, the mount will be placed more vertically, but completely vertical is impossible because the headdress is no longer strong enough to carry even a part of its own weight. In storage, the mount will allow a more horizontal position. Next to the conservation-goals, the mount is designed in such a manner that it will also contribute to the visual appreciation and interpretation of the headdress. Again for exhibit purposes, understanding of the symbolic meaning of the materials of this headdress is important, even more so because the visually dominant features or materials of the object now are very different from what they originally were. What is missing mostly on the headdress are the red colored feathers. This loss can be somewhat visually attenuated by focusing more light on the remaining features, highlighting the original brightness and brilliance, and abundance of the red feathers. (Tournié 2021) Achieving this without losing track of the durable preservation aims is a sensitive process though, that needs to be put in place in a well-thought out manner, that not corresponds with for example a long-term exhibition.25 (Pearlstein 2014)

40On a side note: The conservation research and treatment has brought to light that considering this object to re-live its full spiritual purpose/use in real -life is no longer an option due to the fragile material state of the object. Next to this, also the presence of pesticides needs to be factored in. (Swierenga 2021 : 3) But to think of an alternative way to try and understand and to show and highlight the meaningful sensation this headdress must have had when worn and even danced with and when all separate feathers and all separate attachments (that are so worrisome to us now), must have moved apart and together all at once in this very big Austral Island headdress. What an impactful experience it must have been …

41In this contribution, we have attempted to raise awareness to one particular brilliant, colossal Austral Islands headdress, from Raivavae. One almost identical item belongs to the collections of the Peabody Museum of Harvard University; another, comparable one is kept at the British Museum in London. Renewed attention to - and awareness of - this rare Polynesian masterpiece is very justly here. It is our hope, of all contributors to this thought piece, that making this object and its story known to a broader audience, not only highlights the amazing craftsmanship of its maker(s), but reconnects it to and reinstates it in the cultural history of which it is an integral part, and reconnects it to the Austral Islands and contemporary Austral Islanders and, by extension, the people of French Polynesia. It is thanks to current curator at the museum, Nicolas Cauwe, that decision makers where convinced and motivated and means were made available for the research and conservation of this beautiful, rare and significant headdress, that is now ready to resurface center stage in Brussels.

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Bibliography

Adams, Julie (ed.) 2016. A’a: A Deity from Polynesia. London: British Museum Press.

Aitken, Robert T. 1930. Ethnology of Tubuai. Honolulu: Bishop Museum.

Ashley-Smith, Jonathan 1995. Definitions of Damage. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association of Art Historians, 7-8 April 1995 in London, not published.

Barrow, Terence 1979. The Art of Tahiti. London: Thames and Hudson.

Beaglehole, John C. 1974. The Life of Captain James Cook. London: Adam and Charles Black.

Brokerhof Agnes 2006. “Collection Risk Management - The Next Frontier”, Presented at the Canadian Museums Association Cultural Property Protection Conference, Ottawa.

Brunor, Martin A. 1969. Arts and Crafts of the Austral Islands: A Special Exhibition. Cambridge: Peabody Museum.

Clavir Miriam 2002. Preserving What is Valued: Museums, Conservation, and First Nations. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Corney, Bolton G. 1915. The Quest and Occupation of Tahiti by Emissaries of Spain… 1772-1776. 3 Vols. London: Hakluyt Society.

D’Alleva, Anne 1998. Arts of the Pacific Islands. New York: Abrams.

Edge-Partington, James and Charles Heape 1890-1898. An Album of Weapons, Tools, Ornaments, Articles of Dress of the Natives of the Pacific Islands. Manchester: Privately Published.

Ellis, William 1829. Polynesian Researches. London: Dawsons of Pall Mall.

Forment, Francina 1982. De Vele en de Kleine Eilanden, Paaseiland: Catalogus van Voorwerpen uit Polynesië en Micronesië, Tentoongesteld in de Mercator-Zaal. Brussel: Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis.

Gubel, Eric (ed.) 2015. Topstukken van het Jubelparkmuseum. Brussel: Ludion.

Herda, Phyllis and Billie Lythberg 2014. “Featherwork and Divine Chieftainship in Tonga.” In Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol. 123(3): 277-300.

Hudson, Tracy P. 2013. “Does the Ethnographic Textile Exist? Implications for textile conservation.” In Advanced Conservation Practices. MSc Conservation Studies, UCL Qatar.

Hooper, Steven 2006. Pacific Encounters: Art and Divinity in Polynesia 1760-1860. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i.

Hooper, Steven 2007. “Embodying Divinity: The Life of A’a”. In Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol. 116(2): 131-79.

ICOM Checklist on Ethics of Cultural Property Ownership. https://icom.museum/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/110825_Checklist_print.pdf Link last consulted on the 9th of December 2021.

ICOM Code of Ethics. https://icom.museum/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/ICOM-code-En-web.pdf Link last consulted on the 9th of December 2021.

Idiens, Dale 1990. Cook Islands Art. London: Shire Publications.

Kopytoff, Igor 1986. « The Cultural Biography of Things : Commoditization as Process”, in Arjun Appadurai (ed.) The Social Life of Things : Commodities in Cultural Perspective. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.

Juste, Théodore 1864. Catalogue des Collections Composant le Musée Royal d’Antiquités, d’Armetures et d’Artillerie. Bruxelles : Bruylant et Compagnie.

Kaeppler, Adrienne, Kaufmann, Christian and Douglas Newton 1993. L’Art Océanien. Paris: Citadelles et Mazenod.

Lythberg, Billie 2014.  "Tocados Emplumados en el Museo de América (Madrid) y el

Weltmuseum (Antiguo Museum für Völkerkunde, Vienna)". In Annales del Museo

de América. Nuku, Maia 2019. « Atea: Nature and Divinity in Polynesia. » In The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. 76(3): 24-25.

Pearlstein, Ellen 2014. Correlation between photochemical damage and UV fluorescence of feathers. Presented at the ICOM-CC 17th Triennal Meeting, Melbourne.

Peters, Renata 2008. The brave new world of conservation. Presented at the ICOM-CC 15th Triennial Conference, New Delhi, pp.185-190.

Richards, Rhys 2012. The Austral Islands: History, Art and Art History. Porirua: Paremata Press.

Rose, Roger 1979. “On the Origin and Diversity of ‘Tahitian’ Janiform Fly Whisks”, in Sydney M. Mead (ed.) Exploring the Visual Art of Oceania. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i.

Sellers, Charles C. 1980. Mr. Peale’s Museum. New York: Morton.

Stansiforth, Sarah 1994. What are Appropriate Strategies to Evaluate Change and to Sustain Cultural Heritage, Report of the Dahlem workshop Durability and Change, 6-11 December 1992 in Berlin, pp. 218-223.

Swierenga, Heidi 2021. A stuble shift: The care and use of Indigenous belongings after the Calls to Action. Presented at the ICOMCC 19th Triennal Meeting, Beijing.

Thomas, Nicholas 1995. Oceanic Art. London: Thames and Hudson.

Tournié, Aurélie 2021. Illuminating yellow and red feathers in museum exhibits: Microfading tests and light sensitivity of their bio-pigments. Presented at the ICOM-CC 19th Triennal Meeting, Beijing.

Uden, Jeremy 2014. Pesticide residues on the Cook-voyage collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford. Presented at the ICOM-CC 17th Triennal Meeting, Melbourne.

Wisse, Désirée C.J. 2005. Decisions on the restoration of a Trobriand yam storehouse: the ‘Decision Making Model for the Conservation and Restoration of Modern Art’ applied to an ethnographical object. Presented at the ICOM-CC 14th Triennal Meeting, Den Haag.

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Notes

1 The A’a is shown in almost all major books on Pacific art (e.g. Kaeppler et al 1993: ills. 19, 20, Thomas 1995: p. 167, D’Alleva 1998: p. 98, Hooper 2006: p. 194-5). The British Museum has a volume dedicated to the A’a statue in their Object in Focus Series, titled: A’a: A Deity from Polynesia (Adams et al 2016) and Steven Hooper has a contribution on A’a in The Journal of the Polynesian Society: “Embodying Divinity: The Life of A’a” (2007). The red feathered headdress with pompoms is similarly shown in most works (e.g. Kaeppler et al 1993: ill. 51, Kaeppler 2008: ill. 94, D’Alleva 1998: p. 106, Hooper 2006: p. 215).

2 Metropolitan Museum of Art, exhibition Atea: Nature and Divinity in Polynesia, November 19, 2018 – october 27, 2019 (on line, 29/12/2021)

www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2018/atea-nature-and-divinity-in-polynesia

3 IDEM, ibidem, https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/769263?&exhibitionId=%7b138711a2-e283-41bf-9fb3-cc3ef3e178a3%7d&oid=769263&pkgids=532&pg=0&rpp=20&pos=11&ft=*&offset=20

4 As the ICOM Code of Ethics state: The museum should establish and apply policies to ensure that its collections (both permanent and temporary) and associated information, properly recorded, are available for current use and will be passed on to future generations in as good and safe a condition as practicable, having regard to current knowledge and resources. https://icom.museum/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/ICOM-code-En-web.pdf Link last consulted on the 9th of December 2021.

5 Insitutions with similar objects as mentioned by Hugo De Block. Special thanks to Maia Nuku, Christine Giuntini and Arabel Fernandez from The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY, T.Rose Holdcraft from the Peabody Museum - Harvard University, Fuli Pereira from the Auckland Museum, Christiane Jordan from the Welt Museum Vienna.

6 Since the conservators in KIK-IRPA’s Textile Conservation Studio are solely made-up of woman, this was a rather sensitive question.

7 They were used to protect the object from insect damage in museum pest management protocols.

8 Conservation Department, Lab Department, Documentation Department. https://www.kikirpa.be/fr/

9 High resolution macro images as well as the UV-images where taken by Stéphane Bazzo, Documentation department KIK-IRPA Brussel, they can be consulted via this link: http://balat.kikirpa.be/photo.php?path=X127172&objnr=20061641 Link last consulted on the 6th of May 2020.

10 These photos can be consulted on BALaT, the KIK-IRPA’s on-line database (http://balat.kikirpa.be/search_photo.php

11 Marina Van Bos, co-author of this article and head of the paper, leather and parchment laboratory from the laboratories department at the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA)

12 What's Eating Your Collection is a website to help you understand what integrated pest management is, how to carry it out and how it can help you in your museum: https://www.whatseatingyourcollection.com/

13 Basic precaution is to avoid breathing or entering on direct contact with arsenic, therefore we used body and face protection such as nitril gloves when handling the specimen. We could not work under an extraction unit, but we avoided causing air movement around the object and took care during cleaning with a museum vacuum cleaner to only use it on a light setting. Every tool that came in contact with the object was always thoroughly cleaned afterwards. We would especially like to thank Armando Mendez of the Natural History Museum in London and Anoek de Paepe of the Africamuseum in Tervuren for sharing their experiences and in-house guidelines. These where a very valuable help in order to be and feel safe whilst working with this arsenic-containing object.

14 X-ray image (radiography) taken by Catherine Fondaire, Documentation department, KIK-IRPA Brussels.

15 Via Nicolas Cauwe, Curator at the Art and History Museum in Brussels and keeper of the Austral headdress.

16 Link to the object page on BaLAT http://balat.kikirpa.be/object/20061641 Link last visited on the 9th of December 2021

17 Some changes can be directly linked to ageing and deterioration, others are clearly due to human interventions. https://www.canada.ca/en/conservation-institute/services/agents-deterioration.html Link last visited on the 9th of December 2021.

18 In this respect we have been in contact with Thierry Backeljau, head of the operational directorate “Taxonomy and Phylogeny”, and Olivier Pauwels, biologist and curator of the vertebrate collection.

19 Many thanks to Francisco Mederos-Henry for the analysis of the adhesive.

20 Collaboration between the Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History in Glasgow, the Royal Botanic Kew Gardens in Londen and the Smithsonian Museum in Washington

21 https://www.tapa.gla.ac.uk/ Link last visited on the 9th of December 2021.

22 Agent of deterioration, dissociation: https://www.canada.ca/en/conservation-institute/services/agents-deterioration/dissociation.html Link last visited on the 9th of December 2021.

23 Agent of deterioration, physical forces: https://www.canada.ca/en/conservation-institute/services/agents-deterioration/physical-forces.html Link last visited on the 9th of December 2021.

24 The tailormade museum mount is developed in collaboration with Robby Timmermans, Exhibitions Manager and museum-mount developer, specialized in fashion exhibitions, located in Antwerp.

25 For a durable preservation and to avoid further deterioration, light source, levels – and time of illumination must be adapted and limited. For more information see the following link https://www.canada.ca/en/conservation-institute/services/agents-deterioration/light.html Link last visited on the 9th of December 2021.

See also Risk Management for Heritage Collections: https://www.canada.ca/en/conservation-institute/services/risk-management-heritage-collections.html Link last visited on the 9th of December 2021.

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List of illustrations

Title Fig. 1 “Idols Worshipped by the Inhabitants of the South Sea Islands”
Caption Engraving, frontispiece of Vol. II of William Ellis’ book, Polynesian Researches (1829), showing front and side of the A’a statue, held in the collections of the British Museum in London.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/docannexe/image/8165/img-1.jpg
File image/jpeg, 318k
Title Fig. 2 Feathered headdress, before treatment
Caption Feathered headdress, before treatment, in the collections of the Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels, donated to the then Musée Royal d’Antiquités, d’Armetures, et d’Artillerie in 1857 and recently conserved by the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA: Koninlijk Instituut voor het Kunstpatrimonium), Brussels. Used materials: 4 types of feathers, human hair, shell, cane, coconut fiber and barkcloth. Image before conservation treatment.
Credits © Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/docannexe/image/8165/img-2.jpg
File image/jpeg, 346k
Title Fig. 3 Feathered headdress, Peabody Museum
Caption Feathered headdress in the collections of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, exhibited in 2018-19 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York during Atea: Nature and Divinity in Polynesia.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/docannexe/image/8165/img-3.jpg
File image/jpeg, 154k
Title Fig. 4 Headdress or pectoral
Caption Headdress or pectoral attributed to the Austral Islands and kept in the British Museum, London.
Credits © British Museum
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/docannexe/image/8165/img-4.jpg
File image/jpeg, 328k
Title Fig. 5 Front view of the headdress before treatment
Caption Dimensions: 110 x 150 cm. A wooden mannequin-head, that was a decades old mount, was glued onto the inside in order for the headdress to hold its shape for exhibition. The ribbon in bark cloth with tassels has come off. (cliché X127172)
Credits © KIK-IRPA, Brussels
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/docannexe/image/8165/img-5.jpg
File image/jpeg, 436k
Title Fig. 6 Headdress before treatment
Caption Back view of the headdress before treatment (cliché X127184).
Credits © KIK-IRPA, Brussels
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/docannexe/image/8165/img-6.jpg
File image/jpeg, 438k
Title Fig. 7 Detail
Caption Detail of materials in the headdress (cliché X127181).
Credits © KIK-IRPA, Brussels
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/docannexe/image/8165/img-7.jpg
File image/jpeg, 1.5M
Title Fig. 8 Radiography
Caption Radiography of the headdress
Credits © KIK-IRPA, Brussels
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/docannexe/image/8165/img-8.jpg
File image/jpeg, 314k
Title Fig. 9 Hirox-pictures
Caption Hirox-pictures from the feathers and coconutfiber.
Credits © KIK-IRPA
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/docannexe/image/8165/img-9.jpg
File image/jpeg, 294k
Title Fig.10 Inside helmet
Caption Inside helmet after removal of the old mount before treatment (cliché X128751)
Credits © KIK-IRPA, Brussels
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/docannexe/image/8165/img-10.jpg
File image/jpeg, 606k
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References

Electronic reference

Griet Kockelkoren, Hugo DeBlock, Emma Damen and Marina Van Bos, The Feathered Headdress from the Austral Islands at The Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels: The Conservation of a MasterpieceCeROArt [Online], 12 | 2020, Online since 13 January 2022, connection on 22 January 2022. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/8165; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/ceroart.8165

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About the authors

Griet Kockelkoren

Griet Kockelkoren is Head of the Conservation Studio of Historical and Contemporary Textiles, Costumes and Accessories in the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA), Brussels. In the past she has worked as a conservator in MoMu Antwerp and in the Royal Army Museum in Brussels (KLM-MRA). During her work in these museums she specialized in active and preventive conservation of historical garments and accessories. In addition she has developed an extended knowledge and experience in conservation of plastics. She has taught many lectures and workshops, primarily at Antwerp University College. Before commencing her current position, she was part of the Preventive Conservation Unit of the KIK-IRPA.

Hugo DeBlock

Hugo DeBlock is Guest Professor at Ghent University and The Royal Academy of Fine Arts Ghent. He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Melbourne, with a focus on the anthropology of art. He has carried out extensive ethnographic fieldwork in Vanuatu, in the Southwest Pacific, since 2008 (ongoing) and has more recently shifted the focus of his work towards decolonization and restitution debates and the African arts context in Belgium. His areas of research include material culture and art from the Pacific and Africa, museum anthropology, and anthropology of tourism, with foci on Vanuatu, Tanzania, and DRC.

Emma Damen

Emma Damen recently worked as a Textile Conservator at the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA), Brussels. Currently she is working at the Fashion and Lace Museum in Brussels. She graduated in 2015 at the University of Antwerp in Conservation-Restoration where she had the opportunity to do an exchange in Helsinki, Finland, and to fulfill an internship at the “Palais Galliera: Musée de la mode de la Ville de Paris” After graduating, she gained experience at the collection department of the Fashion Museum in Antwerp and the textile conservation studio of the International Platform for Art Research & Conservation (IPARC).

Marina Van Bos

Marina Van Bos is a senior scientist, specialized in the study of painting techniques and materials. She studied Chemistry at the University of Ghent (MA and PhD) and is working in the Laboratory Department of KIK-IRPA since 1991. Within the cell « Monuments and Monumental Decoration », she is responsible for analyses of painted finishing layers in murals, monumental decoration and wall papers. Within the cell « Leather/paper/parchment » of the laboratory, she is responsible for the identification of various components in pictorial layers and inks in manuscripts or paint on paper and leather, by using non-invasive approaches.

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Copyright

Licence Creative Commons
CeROArt – Conservation, exposition, restauration d'objets d'arts est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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