Wednesday, 29 May 2013

When a junk isn't junk

Recent collections work for the project has had a nautical theme with boats, balers and anchors all being catalogued and conserved. The boats range from coracles from Wales, Ireland and India to a beautifully painted model junk from China, and each has its accessories, be they paddles, sails, balers or flags.

As someone with relatively little knowledge of boat anatomy, I am learning new boat building techniques daily now. I never cease to be amazed by how many different construction methods can be found in just one small corner of the Pitt Rivers.

Inside the Chinese junk were what turned out to be 70 bundles of cord (around 100 metres in all) made from hair - we don't know if the cord was associated with the junk and if so, what it might have been used for.

Chinese junk (PRM 1886.1.375 .1) and chord found inside

This brilliant anchor and chain from Mansinam in West Papua, Indonesia is definitely one of the longest objects I’ve ever catalogued at well over 12 metres long. The links are all made from plaited rattan and, despite the fact that they are well over 100 years old, they are still robust.
Anchor and rattan chain, 19th century (PRM 1898.56.7)

The coracles are made with a basketry frame covered with either hide or bitumen covered calico. This one has a baler, paddle and salmon club or “knocker” for dispatching the freshly caught fish. They are manoeuvred using a single paddle in a figure of eight movement. This method means they make little movement in the water and so do not frighten the fish.

Coracle from Carmarthen in Wales (PRM 1907.71.1)

Once processed, the boats will return to display in the upper perimeter of the Court (ground floor) of the Museum, where they will be positioned and lit in a way that renders them much more visible than before.

What will we be working on next?

Sian (VERVE Curatorial Assistant)

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