On May 2, 2017, I traveled to Lima, Peru, to participate in a convocatorio, or gathering of archaeologists, conservators, textile historians, artisans, and other specialists who are affiliated with Huaca Malena. A ceremonial center located 100 km south of Lima in the town of Asia, Huaca Malena was in use for over 1000 years, including by the Incas as a cemetery prior to the Spanish conquest. Managed by the National Institute of Culture, the Municipal Museum of Huaca Malena was opened in 2001 as a repository for artifacts and mummy bundles salvaged from the surface after the nearby archaeological site was heavily looted in the 1990s.
Thanks to the Individual Professional Development Grant from the FAIC, I was able to participate in the convocatorio between May 3 and May 9. Unlike ten years ago, today I can point to examples of ideal or nearly-ideal solutions within Peru, rather than having to cite museums in New York or Berlin. Some of these examples are the new metal storage cabinets built in Ica for the Ica Museum, the mummy bundle rehousing project at the Museo de Sitio Arturo Jimenez Borja Puruchuco, funded by a grant from the US Embassy (and being presented at the AIC meeting in Chicago by Peruvian colleagues courtesy of the Latin American and Caribbean Scholarship Program), and several installations at the newly renovated Amano Museum in Lima.
The Museo Amano, Lima's only museum dedicated to textiles, was recently reopened following a complete refurbishment of the 1960s building. Head of visitor services and experienced conservator Doris Robles showed Camille and Angela Pacheco (textile conservator and former MTS intern) inside the drawers of this new storage/exhibition space.
On my first day working with the team, I began to strategize on two rehousing projects. Peruvian-French textile conservator Jessica Levy is writing about feathered objects from Huaca Malena, and we decided to construct a box for three of the most fragile examples. The tallest, which a recent trip to the Museo de Historia Natural confirmed is made of duck feathers, needs a storage/display board so it can be exhibited without being handled. I built one out of archival materials I sourced in Lima, as well as BEVA adhesive film donated by Hollinger Metal Edge and unbuffered acid-free tissue donated by University Products. The individual mounts tie closed and fit into a three-tiered storage box made of corrugated polypropylene.
The other rehousing challenge I faced was how to properly store oversized textiles such as tunics and women's dresses like those researcher Lena Bjerregaard of the University of Copenhagen will write about. Ideally, they would lie flat in an inert storage cabinet, however the Huaca Malena museum has neither the space nor the funds for this. Instead, I used plain cardboard tubes covered with a barrier of polyethylene sheeting and a layer of polyester batting. We laid the women’s dresses out onto strips of tissue placed over a sling of Notex (nonwoven polyester fabric used for airplane pillow cases), covered them with more tissue, and made a new accession tag. We then rolled the dresses up and covered them with an outer roll of tocuyu, or Peruvian muslin. I also built a custom box for the tubes using corrugated polypropylene and fashioned cradles for the ends of the tubes out of expanded polyethylene foam.
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