Pacific barkcloth under the microscope - characterisation of condition, decoration and structure

Smith, M. J. and Macken, A. (2020) Pacific barkcloth under the microscope - characterisation of condition, decoration and structure. Journal of Conservation and Museum Studies, 18(1), 2. (doi: 10.5334/jcms.193/)

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The creation of barkcloth begins with harvesting the inner bark of certain types of trees followed by soaking and beating with grooved beaters, a process which often leaves undulations on the surface of the bark, also known as the beater mark. The cloth can then be decorated using colorants, applied as particulate pigments, dyes or paints. The resulting material is highly ornate with varying surface textures and colours. The usefulness of stereo and standard light microscopy, ranging from around x10 for low and up to x200 for high-magnification microscopy, and macro photography to examine the subtleties of the surface of the cloth is highlighted in this research, with examples of barkcloth from the Hunterian, University of Glasgow, Glasgow and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London collections. Examples of beater marks, particulate dye material, cracking painted surfaces, as well as the presence of two species used to create one cloth are shown, aspects that are not immediately obvious when examining the cloths with the naked eye. To further enhance the analysis from microscopy XRF and FTIR were used when appropriate. Observing the material in this way can increase appreciation for the aesthetic aspects of barkcloth and can further knowledge of the materials used in production. This can inform condition reports, storage requirements, and potential conservation treatments.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Smith, Dr Margaret and Macken, Ms Aisling
Authors: Smith, M. J., and Macken, A.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
Journal Name:Journal of Conservation and Museum Studies
Publisher:Ubiquity Press
ISSN (Online):1364-0429
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 The Authors
First Published:First published in Journal of Conservation and Museum Studies 18(1):2
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
662721Situating Pacific barkcloth production in time and placeFrances LennardArts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)AH/M00886X/1CCA - HISTORY OF ART