Recent Advances in Barkcloth Conservation: A Symposium at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. December 7th, 2018

Barkcloth has a long and widespread history of manufacture and use throughout the tropics. It is present in large quantities in many museums, and is of interest to many source communities seeking to revive or strengthen their barkcloth-making heritage.


Friday 7th December 2018.  10am - 5.30pm.  Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Lady Lisa Sainsbury Lecture Theatre.   Jodrell Laboratory Gate, Kew Road

This one-day meeting presents diverse approaches to understanding the making, conservation and display of barkcloth in several tropical regions. It will be of interest to conservators, curators, anthropologists, art historians, makers, and all who value this beautiful material.

The meeting is organised by the Situating Pacific Barkcloth in Time and Place project, a collaboration between the Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History at the University of Glasgow, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

Over the three years 2016-2018 we investigated the material nature of Polynesian barkcloth collections from The Hunterian Museum (Glasgow) and the Economic Botany Collection (Kew). The role of conservation in the project was to review and develop technical methods for conserving barkcloth, to to stabilise and better store objects, and to facilitate visual and physical access for all user communities.

The symposium will share some of the project’s findings and will mark the end of the project’s conservation programme by creating a platform for conservators and those non-conservation professionals with interest in the subject to share and discuss the joys and challenges of working with barkcloth. We have a wonderful selection of posters and papers that encompass barkcloth practices from different corners of the world with topics ranging from practical conservation case studies to material analysis. There will be an opportunity to see and discuss some of the conserved barkcloth objects from Kew's Economic Botany Collection.

PDF postprints will be published online, available at Institute of Conservation website. Conference participants will also receive a digital copy upon publication

Provisional programme

  • Research conservation of the Hunterian and Kew tapa collections (Misa Tamura, Situating Pacific Barkcloth project)

  • Materials analysis of the Hunterian and Kew tapa collections (Margaret Smith, Situating Pacific Barkcloth project)

  • Barkcloth on display - the Discovering Worlds Project at RAMM (Sarah Klopf, Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter)

  • Exploring support materials and adhesives for the repair of barkcloth: Aspects of conserving tapa elements of a Tahitian mourner’s costume (Sophie Rowe, Nicole Rode and Monique Pullan, The British Museum)

  • Poster session and opportunity to view conserved Economic Botany Collection objects

  • Mounting barkcloth with rare earth magnets: the compression and fibre resiliency answer (Gwen Spicer, Spicer Art Conservation)

  • Collaborative efforts to preserve beaten-bark picture scrolls (wayang beber) in Indonesia (Isamu Sakamoto, Tokyo Restoration and Conservation Center and Saiful Bakhri, University of Melbourne)

  • Conserving a Polynesian bark cloth for the new Pacific Encounters gallery at Royal Museums Greenwich (Nora Meller, Royal Museums Greenwich)

  • Scientific protocol for analysis of plant materials and pigments (Diego Tamburini, Caroline Cartwright, Marta Melchiorre Di Crescenzo, The British Museum and Georgina Rayner, Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, Harvard Art Museums)

  • The investigation of colour in Pacific barkcloth from the NMS collections (Lore Troalen and Antje Denner, National Museums Scotland)

Practical information

Registration includes morning and afternoon refreshments and lunch; please specify any dietary preferences when you order your ticket. Doors open at 09.30 and talks begin at 10.00 and finish at 17.00. Accomodation nearby (reasonable walk or short bus ride) include the Kew Bridge Premier Inn (often used by Kew visiting researchers) and Travelodge. The Lady Lisa Sainsbury Lecture Theatre is in easy walking distance from Kew Gardens station, Kew Bridge station is just over 10 minutes away. Detailed travel information and programme will be sent closer to the meeting. The Jodrell Lecture theatre is fully accessible; please let us know of any access issues when you order your ticket.


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