Thankfully, most of these objects are in good condition, and needed little more than a gentle clean or the removal of old adhesive or labels made with non-archival materials. Many of the more fragile objects, such as boar’s teeth, had broken and needed to be re-adhered. A couple showed previous at-home repairs done with hot glue or tape, which we removed and replaced with more subtle techniques and archival materials that are designed to be reversible and stable for extended periods of time. Once treatments have been completed, after-treatment photos are taken and treatment reports are prepared to document the changes that have occurred during the treatment process. It is important to also note where objects have not been treated and whether this was a result of the object being in good condition to begin with, or, more rarely, because it has been damaged beyond repair.
Object number H151-POM051 is a sacred object made of four boar’s tusks woven onto the end of a pandamus “cane” handle. The object was previously part of the collections of the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, where Bud Hampton worked for a time as a curator. Although historical documentation for this object is limited, it became clear when treating this object that it had previously been repaired while in the CU Museum collections. Unfortunately, the adhesive that was used to repair the object was hot-melt glue, which was not compatible with the boar’s tusks, and was putting the object at risk of further damage. In order to repair this object, the old adhesive was removed, and the object was repaired with conservation-grade adhesives: the tusks themselves were re-adhered using Paraloid B72 in acetone (a strong, yet reversible adhesive used frequently on non-porous materials), and the tusks were secured to the handle with an adhesive called Lascaux 498, an adhesive reversible with water, used to adhere objects to porous surfaces, such as the cane handle on H151-POM051. The resulting object is now more securely adhered than before, using materials that do not pose a risk of further damage to the object, and can more easily be removed than hot-melt glue, should any conservation issues arise in the future.
Object H519-M033 was of particular interest as it is a rare in-progress glimpse at a Neolithic-style bone needled being used to sew plant material instead of skin or leather. Bud Hampton saw this item—which he identified as a sleeping mat—being sewn in a Yeineri hut in 1991 and, once it was given to him, stored it tightly folded with a group of unrelated objects. However, it was impossible to obtain a good image of the stitching with the mat so tightly folded and the sharp creases were beginning to crack and split. As a result we decided to open the mat so that it could be properly studied and documented, as well as to prevent further degradation.
Exposure to water vapor plasticizes many natural polymers and allows them to soften and move when otherwise they would be too brittle or stuck in a certain location. Creating a space with elevated relative humidity and placing this object in it for lengths of time allowed some of the folds to open, but not all. Eventually the mat needed to be immersed in liquid water to allow it to open completely. Interestingly, we now believe this object is not only sleeping mat but also functions as a rain cape used for temporary shelter. This explains a number of questions we had as to its structure and dimensions and would not have been evident had we chosen not to treat the object.
The final phase is to design storage systems that protect the objects from deterioration. This can be caused by many factors, including mechanical stress, exposure to light and heat, attack from pests, and water damage. Taking the time to carefully consider each object and its needs minimizes future risk. By conserving the objects now, we make them more appealing for museum collections and prevent additional damage from occurring.
By Katarina Kaspari and Callista Jerman
Dr. Hampton expressed his wishes for his collection in a letter, dated 6 December 2000, to Dr. Linda S. Cordell, who was the director of the University of Colorado Museum in Boulder, Colorado. At the time, Dr. Hampton was an adjoint Curator Anthropology at the museum.
Selective scanned images of color slides have been uploaded to https://hamptonarchive.omeka.net/
The basic information about the Hampton Archive is now searchable on the Online Archive California. The next step is to build a database management system that will contain photograph and information of the individual artifact, which will be linked to Calisphere.