24 April 2015
Dr Karen Jacobs is helping RAMM better understand its Pacific collections.
“It’s an amazing collection.” She said after a visit to the ethnography store. “We’ve seen some real gems; take this liku from Fiji for example. It is one of only a limited number in the UK and will be of interest to women in Fiji who no longer make them but are interested in the elaborate techniques.” The liku is a rare type of skirt made from hibiscus fibres. This item, along with four others from the collection, will feature in a major exhibition called The Arts of Fiji at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich in 2016.
Dr Jacobs also gave advice on conservation requirements and techniques. Her visit is part of a wider Designation Development Fund supported Discovering Worlds project, an ambitious project encompassing new research, conservation, documentation and reinterpretation of RAMM’s Pacific collections. Her research will be incorporated in the collection documentation and will assist with the redisplay of the Pacific collections in the World Cultures gallery in 2015.
One particularly perplexing object from Rarotonga in the Cook Islands shows how much research is required. Great care has been taken to wrap a mystery item in pandanus leaves, then bind it with coir roping. It is labelled as ‘a well preserved banana’, but Dr Jacobs believes that it is more likely to be an object of power. There are similar objects in the collections of the British Museum and they usually contain wood, feathers (used in exchange as a currency) fibres and bark cloth. As a first step in finding out more, the object will be X-rayed by a museum conservator.
Dr Karen Jacobs is Lecturer in the Arts of the Pacific at the University of East Anglia and researcher at Sainsburys Research Unit for the Arts of Africa, Oceania & the Americas.