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Condition Reporting


Fur parka with many different furs.
This Yup’ik parka is made from a great many different furs. If you are not sure what fur you are looking at, don’t speculate without qualifiers that indicate you are guessing. It is OK to say “likely ground squirrel, caribou, and wolverine.” Be careful, misinformation from object records has a way of making it into exhibition labels and publications, and complicates research in the future.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection II-A-4318

Child parka.
This child’s parka has tears along the sides of the hood. Because the hood is a little bit heavy and the skin is delicate, these tears are at risk of getting worse if the garment is not moved with care. You can see another tear at the lower proper left (PL) and minor areas of insect damage, especially along the bottom. Under the PR arm is a patch from manufacture.

Photo credit: Sheldon Jackson Museum collection SJ-2008-7-1

Close-up of parka shoulder that has pulled apart at the seam.
The shoulder seam of this parka is splitting open. Seams on garments that bear weight are vulnerable, and fur parkas are rather heavy. Check weight-bearing seams for damage.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection II-A-4942

Close-up of a large tear in a muskrat parka.
This parka seems to be made of muskrat and has torn. Sometimes this is from a specific damage event when the item was mishandled, but sometimes the skin is delicate and the item is at further risk. Indicate if the skin seems flexible or stiff. Fur garments made from smaller furbearing critters are more delicate because the skins are thinner.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection 2008-23-1

Close-up of a patch of the skin side of the fur that has started to break down & open up.
Sometimes the skin side of a fur is brittle and fractures apart like this. It might be from an error in the tanning process. We tend to see this more often on dolls or parka cuffs. This kind of damage is serious and often will be exacerbated with handling. Such an item is a poor candidate for loan or travel, for example. If it is needed for exhibition, mount making will put it at higher risk of more damage. This kind of damage is worth pursuing a conservation treatment to stabilize.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection 2005-5-1

Close-up of the hood on a child's parka.
The outside of the hood on this child’s parka is confusing to look at until you realize it is the head of a caribou fawn, and what you see are the little ears and what would have been the eye holes with patches sewn in them. Little dried ears and tails are delicate and should be noted if they are present.

Photo credit: Sheldon Jackson Museum collection SJ-2008-7-1

Ermine pullover with added decoration around the shoulders, cuffs, and base.
Ermines, a kind of white weasel who changes colors with the seasons, are commonly seen in Alaskan collections and collections of Northwest Coast materials. They have a telltale black tip on their tails. This shirt is made from their pelts. The pelts typically include legs (but rarely feet), skinned out heads with whiskers, and especially tails. Note if the skins are stiff, torn, or remain flexible. Note if the tails are intact, broken, or missing.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection II-B-1559

Close-up of ermine pelt with pink stains.
Ermine pelts are usually white, sometimes yellowish, and occasionally there may be pinkish staining. The pink staining might be related to dye transfer from other objects nearby in use, ceremony, or storage. They are also easily soiled from use, sometimes appearing rather grey or sooty.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection II-B-1559

Close-up of an ermine tail that has broken off of an ermine pelt.
Ermine tails can be delicate and break off. Be sure to inspect the tails when condition reporting, and keep an eye out in storage and packing in case you see one.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection II-B-810

Antler with leather and beadwork done on the end.
The end of this antler has a piece of leather with beadwork and tufted moose hair embroidery. Most of the tufted moose hair I have seen is in good condition, but the dyes can fade and moose hair is rather brittle.

Photo credit: Sheldon Jackson College

Close-up of fur reveals a spider's nest.
That weird white “bag” in the fur is an empty spider nest. Spiders are not considered heritage-eaters and can be helpful in hunting bad bugs, but we sometimes see their webs, nests, and droppings on collections.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection 99-11-1

Close up of fur boot that is losing fur.
The grey blobby shapes with tiny specks are evidence of infestation. So are the individual hairs all over the place. This is webbing/ cocoon material and insect droppings (frass) from moth larvae. If you have no proof that the infestation is not active, this item should be bagged and isolated from the rest of the collection immediately in case live insects or eggs are still present.

Photo credit: Ellen Carrlee

Close up of fur mittens that have lost a lot of fur.
These fur mittens have suffered severe insect damage. The mitten on the right has serious fur loss from very large areas of insect grazing. The mitten on the left has lost nearly all its fur to insects and they have grazed holes through the skin as well. On the black fabric, you can see two white ovals…that is where there were moth cocoons attached. The cocoons themselves have fallen off, but their residue remains.

Photo credit: Sheldon Jackson Museum collection SJ-I-A-505

Close up of doll feet with fur boots that have several holes in the fur.
The cuffed fur boots and fur pants of this doll have been destroyed by insects. The fur is gone, the dark epidermal grain layer of the boot is mostly gone, and there are holes eaten through the skin. Most likely, the boots were also stuffed with an animal product like wool or fur, as the moths set up home inside the boot and under the cuff as seen by the dense debris of insect webbing and frass (insect droppings).

Photo credit: Ellen Carrlee