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Reopening of the Worldmuseum Vienna

In my most recent project at the Worldmuseum in Vienna  I was fortunate to be part of the conservation team to prepare the collection and museum galleries for the new permanent exhibition. The museum opened on 25 October 2017. With my colleague Renée Riedler we wrote a paper on some aspects of of this work:

2017. with Renée Riedler. REOPENING OF THE WELTMUSEUM WIEN: TIME BETWEEN THE PAST AND THE FUTURE. ICOM CC Objects from Indigenous and World Cultures: Conservation Newsletter July 2017. Newsletter ICOM-CC_WG July 2017 final.


Which is the correct way to wear a Maori dogskin cloak? – a mock up cloak at the MEG 2017 conference Cloth and Costume in Ethnographic Museums: New Directions in Research, Care and Interpretation.



Thank you, Pacific Tapa project team, for tweeting.

Thank you, Nicholas Thomas, for helping demonstrate.

With Patricia Wallace we recently presented our investigation of a very special Maori dog skin cloak held in the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology collection.

We question the definition of the puahi, which is defined by Mead (1969) as a white hairless dogskin cloak with a fringe at the hemline. We argue that the edge of the cloak decorated with the fringe was originally worn at the neck and not at the hemline as it had been interpreted and presented by scholars up to this point.


Luba Dovhun Nurse and Patricia Wallace

A Cambridge Conundrum: new questions need new answers

In his 1969 work on traditional Maori clothing, S. M. Mead’s classification of dogskin cloaks included a category D5, identified as Puuahi (aka Puahi). The defining features of this class were that they were covered with white hairless strips of skin, and had a fringe of dogskin strips along the bottom edge.  Very few appear to remain, of which the example D 1924.80 held in the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology collection is one.

But much has changed since the work of W. Shawcross at Cambridge circa 1970.  Development of new technology, recognition of a growing body of textile specialists and opportunities for indigenous peoples to work alongside museum professionals are all factors contributing to such change.

Accordingly, the use of modern technology throws new light on previously unobserved details of this dogskin cloak. Recent research has revealed a number of anomalies that begin to challenge previous understanding and raise a series of new questions.  Finding all the answers will require ongoing commitment – of people, time and money; but any answers will add to existing knowledge and increase our understanding of this Maori taonga.

Authenticity in the revival of orthodox ecclesiastical embroidery in post-Soviet Russia.


Copy of my paper coauthored with Dinah Eastop and Mary M. Brooks

Authenticity in the revival of Orthodox ecclesiastical embroidery in post-Soviet Russia FINAL

2014. Dovgan Nurse, L., Eastop, D. and M.M. Brooks. Authenticity in the revival of orthodox ecclesiastical embroidery in post-Soviet Russia. In: R. Gordon, E. Hermens and F. Lennard (eds) Authenticity and Replication: The ‘Real Thing’ in Art and Conservation. London: Archetype, 74-85.detail split stitch v 1

Investigating Upholstery of the 1841 Horse-Drawn Railway Carriage ‘Hannibal’ at the Technisches Museum Wien: Poster for Dyes in History and Archaeology 33rd Conference.


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Last winter I was in Vienna working on an early 19th century horse-drawn railway carriage ‘Hannibal’ at the Technical Museum. One aspect of the project, investigation of upholstery by dye analysis, will be presented next week at the conference Dyes in History and Archaeology 33 at the Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History, University of Glasgow. I will post more on the project later but here is our abstract.


Dye Analysis Contributes to the Interpretation of the Object’s History: Investigating Upholstery of the 1841 Horse-Drawn Railway Carriage ‘Hannibal’ at the Technisches Museum Wien. 

Luba Dovgan Nurse1*, Valentina Ljubic-Tobisch2, Chris Clouter2, Thomas Winkler2, Maarten R. van Bommel3, Alisa Selviasiuk3, Matthijs de Keijzer3, Regina Hofmann-de Keijzer4.

  1. Freelance textile conservator, UK,
  2. Vienna, Technical Museum, Austria.
  3. Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, Department Research Movable Heritage.
  4. University of Applied Arts Vienna, Austria, Department Archaeometry.

The poster discusses an investigation of the upholstery of a horse-drawn railway carriage known as Hannibal (built around 1841 and used until 1872). The carriage is part of the collection of the Vienna Technical Museum, Austria, and was conserved in 2014 to prepare it for long-term display in the permanent galleries. Conservation of upholstery was prioritised because of its poor condition. A conservation condition survey revealed that the interior upholstery was not original and that the carriage had undergone many renovation campaigns making the identification of the original components and layers of upholstery challenging. The reconstructed history of Hannibal highlights its role as an exhibit at international exhibitions in Vienna prior to becoming part of the museum’s collection. This makes the renovations and renewals of upholstery potentially significant. The conservation project aimed to document and preserve the carriage in its current form. To establish the chronology of the upholstery layers, dyes were analysed by ultrahigh pres- sure liquid chromatography with photo diode array detection (UHPLC-PDA). Analysis of the dyestuffs helped to understand the significance of alterations and restorations in the context of the museum’s earlier practices. The poster presents the most important aspects of this collaborative project.

added 10 Dec 2014: poster file.

Investigating Upholstery of the 1841 Horse-Drawn Railway Carriage ‘Hannibal’ at the Technisches Museum Wien.

Investigating Upholstery of the 1841 Horse-Drawn Railway Carriage ‘Hannibal’ at the Technisches Museum Wien.

Conservation in the gallery public access overall Conservation in the gallery public access

Preventive conservation: storage mount for a folk dance bonnet: Fosshape

This post is about making a three dimensional conservation storage mount from Fosshape 600 (polyester) for a rare folk dance bonnet made from paper. This is an example of preventive methods of collection care and storage that compliment Continue reading

Collection care and more: Additional material for participants of ‘Curation of ethnobiology collections’ course (SYNTHESYS/KEW)

Here is some additional information following the discussions during the ‘Curation of ethnobiology collections’ Synthesys course at the Economic Botany Collection Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in June 2013.

See 2 reviews of the course by Gina Allnatt Biology Curator and Andrew Lawton Trainee Biological Curator. Thank you!


Celmisia species : Maori ‘tikumu’

drawings by Pavel Mikhailov during expedition of F.Bellinsgauzen 1819-1821

Pavel Mikhailov ‘Chief of the southern New Zealand with his wife’ 1821
Павел Михайлов “Начальник Южной Новой Зеландии с женой”

Recently I was very fortunate to attend the Artefacts of Encounter workshop  and to hear Julie Adams’s presentation ‘Bellingshausen collection of Maori cloaks in St. Petersburg’. AoE team’s research in Russia has located some incredible artefacts, cloaks included, I hope they publish the results of this project soon.

This portrait ‘Chief of the southern New Zealand with his wife’ is by the artist Pavel Mikhailov (1786-1840), who accompanied the First Russian Antarctic Expedition of 1819-1821 of Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen (Russian: Фаддей Фаддеевич Беллинсгаузен, Faddey Faddeyevich Bellinsgauzen).

On the original image the leaves of the woman’s headdress are of natural, buff colour, and looking similar to the leaves of the mountain daisy Celmisia,  endemic Continue reading

Reflectance Transformation Imaging : new blog by The National Archives

I have been looking for examples of application of Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) to the study of basketry and it came in today: this blog by Dinah Eastop at The National Archives has an RTI image of a straw hat.

From my experience of working with basketry collections (mainly at the NMAI and EBC/Kew), basketry is often difficult to photograph, especially when the aim is to share the collection remotely with contemporary basketry makers who are interested in the details of construction (starting point, base, turning points, rim, sides, weave etc etc etc), and the basket’s original function.

The object’s condition can be used to interpret the life of the artefact prior to entering museum, with basketry this aspect is often overlooked. This is when a hat gets displayed as a bag upside down, or when a used and functional basket is misinterpreted as a newly made tourist souvenir.

Are there any applications of RTI to the study of evidence of wear and tear with basketry or garments?

I look forward to the updates on this project from The National Archives.

UPDATE 6/5/13: Part three of Dinah’s blog, focused on ‘plaiting’, demonstrates the applicability of RTI to the study of textile structures that are seemingly flat.