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Subject: African hair combs

African hair combs

From: Pia Edqvist <pia_edqvist<-at->
Date: Wednesday, April 3, 2013
I am an objects conservator working with a collection of African
hair combs at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.  There has been
very little published on the conservation of objects of this kind
and I hope that a ConsDist reader might point me to relevant
unpublished information.  The collection includes over 200 combs
from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The combs are made of metal, wood, reed/grass, glass (beads), plant
fibre, bone/ivory/horn, elephant hair and pigment/dye.  Many of the
objects are composite.  In addition there are residues and
applications consisting of oil, fat, wax and resin.  I am
undertaking technical examination, analysis and conservation.

My colleagues and I have been surprised that so few of the combs
have broken teeth, even though they show other signs of use, such
as, patination of surface, the wear of teeth, hair and residues of
oil/fat/wax.  This may simply be a testament to the makers' ability
to produce a technically proficient and durable object.

The active conservation treatment needed on the collection is
limited; combs made of metal composite materials are showing
corrosion often caused by the interaction of organic applications
such as oil, fat, wax.  Glass disease has also been observed on
composite glass beaded combs.  Breakage and untangling of fibre have
been observed on combs made with decorative fibre binding.  Some
objects are very dirty, here the distinction between 'ethnographic
dirt' and 'museum dirt' is made.

I would be grateful for any information, but I also have some
specific questions:

    What kind of technical information was gathered?

    Has any analysis been executed on your combs? What were your

    Have you made any observations of wear on the objects and what
    was the nature of this wear?

    Have you observed broken teeth? Do you have comments on this?

    What kind of treatments was executed on the objects?

Pia Edqvist
The Fitzwilliam Museum
Trumpington Street
Cambridge CB2 1RB
Mobile: +44 7703 337493

                  Conservation DistList Instance 26:44
                   Distributed: Sunday, April 7, 2013
                       Message Id: cdl-26-44-022
Received on Wednesday, 3 April, 2013

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