Getting older, yet better

Object of the Month: 06/2017

What is it?:

Tucuna men’s maskMask
MaskCourtesy SMM


Origin:

Upper Amazon, Brazil


Where was it collected:

Purchased in Igarape Belem, Brazil in 1971


What is it made of?:

Bark cloth, wood, fibers


Accession #: SMM A71:9:136

More secure: Conservator Rebecca Newberry places the mask on its new, stronger mount.
More secure: Conservator Rebecca Newberry places the mask on its new, stronger mount.Courtesy SMM
Safely storing museum objects is a never ending task. Sometimes we need to improve old mounts. This Tucuna mask from Brazil is a perfect example. When recently showing the object in a storage drawer to a tour, the nearly 20-year old mount began to collapse. It’s important to keep irregularly shaped objects like masks on a mount so that its fine details don’t get crushed.

The new mount not only continues to support it Old mount: This old mount lost strength.
Old mount: This old mount lost strength.Courtesy SMM
from the inside just like a human head, but also has a wide, rigid base allowing the whole assembly to be lifted and moved around more safely.

Says Conservator Rebecca Newberry: “Conservation is always working to improve the past.”

Masks like this were used in a ceremony commemorating in girl’s passage to womanhood. The rituals went on for four days straight and the girl had to stay awake the whole time.

Click here to learn more about the culture and customs of the Tucuna people.