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Subject: Humidification


From: Jack C. Thompson <tcl>
Date: Friday, April 7, 2000
Neil Patrick O'Donnell <npo [at] acsu__buffalo__edu> writes

>The Society's collection of Native American material includes
>several pairs of moccasins that have completely dried out during
>the last century.  I have placed one pair in our home-made humidity
>chamber and after several rotations, the pair softened up quite a
>bit.  However, once out of the chamber the pair quickly harden
>again.  I would appreciate any suggestions on anything we can do to
>prevent the pair from hardening again.

The information given is not very complete, but my first thought is
that these moccasins were made from skins which were brain tanned,
but not smoked (formaldehyde tannage), which suggests that they were
likely used ceremonially, not for everyday use.

Such skins need to be worked until they are completely dry to remain
soft, otherwise they will harden upon drying.

Alternatives include oiling (posb***. with egg yolk or brains) and
gently working the skin until it is dry.

This is not the best thing to do to an artifact.

It would be best to contact a conservator in your area who has
experience with the conservation of native tannage.

Jack C. Thompson
Thompson Conservation Lab.
Portland, Oregon
503-735-3942 (voice/fax)

                  Conservation DistList Instance 13:51
                 Distributed: Saturday, April 15, 2000
                       Message Id: cdl-13-51-008
Received on Friday, 7 April, 2000

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