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Published: 06 May 2017

By Andy Ross

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Conserving textiles

The American Museum of Natural History's anthropology collection has some artefacts from Siberia, and these require some extra special care and attention. 

The series Shelf Life tells the background story of how the Museum acquired some of its collection and what present day scientists and researchers are discovering through these artefacts. This one is about the Jesup North Pacific Expedition, an ambitious project which used two groups of experts, one from America and one from Siberia, to explore the question of who crossed the Bering Strait when. The resulting collection numered more than 5,000 pieces when it was finally delivered to the Museum and this film looks at the conservation of a small percentage of items. The Museum worked with a  PhD candidate, Vera Alexseyevna Solovyeva, who comes from Siberia and who therefore has a direct link to the collection, and the video shows some beautiful garments, some made from fish skins, others from reindeer hide, or intestine, and artefacts of birch bark. 

These kinds of collections are valuable resources, not just for scientists but for the people these artefacts came from. It is poignant to realise that the way of life shown in the photographs and clothes no longer exists. Vera tells movingly of how, when she first saw the clothes, she was close to tears. What a lovely film to find.

The Guts and Glory of Object Conservation - Shelf Life #15 from AMNH on Vimeo.