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Subject: Preservation of archaeological and ethnographic materials

Preservation of archaeological and ethnographic materials

From: Judson Joel White <whitejud>
Date: Friday, March 31, 1995
I write to ask the advice of list subscribers regarding the restoration
and preservation of some unusual archaeological and ethnographic
materials.  The materials discussed below are in the archeaological and
ethnographic collections of Luther College in Decorah, IA.  Until the
legal obligations presented by NAGPRA, these materials had been given
only the most primitive care, due mostly to a lack of funding.  Although
we have argued for a staff conservator, no action will be taken in the
near future.

Nonetheless, the faculty and staff members responsible for the care of
this material feel compelled to do as much as they can, given limited
resources and conservation training.  If anyone would be so kind as to
make some simple suggestions for the stabilization and preservation of
the below items, we would be most appreciative.  Also, we would
appreciate references to related source material in the Conservation
literature.

1.  Several small fragments of matting/textile (apparently of
    unidentified animal hide or bark) were discovered in materials
    donated by a local avocational archaeologist in 1969.  Individual
    fragments appear to be intact, though brittle, dry, and highly
    friable.

2.  In the same site collection we have also discovered strands of
    braided cordage.  The cords were preserved inside of a large number
    of rolled copper beads and tubes.  We have yet to exactly identify
    whether the material is braided vegetable fiber or hair (human or
    animal).

3.  An Inuit jacket (like a rain slicker) thought to be sewn from strips
    of whale or seal stomach.  Records suggest it to be roughly 100
    years. old. Presently this items is badly wrinkled and folded, and
    has become desiccated and brittle.  We fear this item is beyond
    restoration.

4.  A goat-skin cape of Zulu origins.  The cape is of unknown age,
    though appears to have been washed at some point in the past.  The
    goat leather has become very stiff and fragile, so much so that we
    are afraid to disturb it in any way.  This is another item we fear
    to be beyond help.

5.  A full buckskin suit of Native American manufacture dated to 1927.
    The suit has "Woodland" style bead work, buckskin fringe, and metal
    button fasteners.  Similar to 4., the item appears to have been
    washed, then line dried.

If anyone wishes additional details, I can be contacted at  the address
below. Sincere thanks,

Judson Joel White
Laboratory of Anthropology
Luther College
Decorah, IA 52101
319-387-2156
preservation of some unusual archaeological and ethnographic
materials

                                  ***
                  Conservation DistList Instance 8:81
                   Distributed: Sunday, April 2, 1995
                        Message Id: cdl-8-81-008
                                  ***
Received on Friday, 31 March, 1995

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