Recently our team had the rather difficult but incredibly enjoyable task of sorting out the pacific grass skirts in our collections as part of the recognition project to improve the documentation and storage of our internationally renowned pacific collections. Louise called in help to try and sort out/work out which skirt was which, who donated it and what numbers they had been assigned in the past.
Assistant curator of collections and access, Louise says ‘we decided the only way to work out the documentation muddle of the grass skirts was to lay them all out side by side and work through the list of numbers and descriptions and match the skirts up to the number that matched. Sometimes going from box to box just doesn’t work and you get yourself in a muddle!’
Luckily Marischal College Collections Centre has plenty of gallery space which is big enough for the task. The team took all of the grass skirts they could find in the store and laid them out in the gallery and began their detective work.
Some of the descriptions of the skirts are very basic and very similar. For example 10 entries in the documentation system had the same description of ‘’Skirt fringed in vegetable fibre, dyed reddish brown, with plaited waist band’’. It is hard but crucial to differentiate which skirt is which from this description because they were collected by different donors and are from different areas.
By the end of the project these descriptions will be updated with additional information and all the skirts will be packed into better storage. Next time someone wants to study these beautiful skirts they will be organised, accessible and NOT in a muddle!
The next big task is working out the headdresses – stay tuned……