Skip to Main Content

Condition Reporting


Flat drum with a long handle. Drum head has spots of tranlucense.
Drum skins that appear translucent or thin are likely internal organs of marine mammals, such as stomach or liver tissues. These are delicate and prone to tear. The spotty appearance here is a natural feature of the tissue.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection 97-35-14

Flat drum.
This drum is likely made from walrus stomach. The repair along the edge is worth noting…

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection II-A-5416

Close-up of patched area on a drumhead.
The repair to the small hole in the gut is made with another natural-looking material and is likely a cultural repair. Sometimes other internal organ skins or certain kind of fish skins were used to make the repair.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection II-A-5416

Gut parka. Back side view.
Here is the back of a Yup’ik gut raincoat. The small round area is likely a cultural repair. The longer vertical might be a museum repair. Tears on gut raincoats are a common type of damage. Gut is very stiff and can be brittle with age. During its useful life, it was also stiff when dry and could tear easily. This kind of garment was dampened for use.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum education collection ED.97-5

Brown gut parka. Front side view.
Sometimes gut parkas are very brown. This might be from oil applied during cultural use, or from well-intentioned museum treatments of the past. It was common in the past for museums and collectors to try to keep leather, skin, and gut supple by adding oils and lubricating substances that later darkened or became sticky.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection II-F-181

White gut parka. Front view.
This gut parka is opaque and white. That means it has been “winter tanned” and this material is different from a rain parka. It is more flexible when dry. These are often decorated. Typical damage includes tears and loss of individual bits of adornment.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection II-A-4458

Child boots made of gut and leather.
The upper region of these boots is likely made of esophagus, or the tube connecting the throat to the stomach, located behind the windpipe. This material is thicker and more opaque than intestine. If you are not sure of the internal organ, it is OK to just call it gut. Internal organs of animals are poorly understood and described in museum collections.

Photo credit: Sheldon Jackson Museum collection SJ-2008-6-1

Close-up of large tear in the gut boot.
Here is a detail of the damage on the back of one of the boots. Esophagus, like most inner organs, becomes brittle and delicate with age and can tear.

Photo credit: Sheldon Jackson Museum collection SJ-2008-6-1

Gut canteen.
This gut canteen is made from a section of intestine, most likely from a marine mammal like a seal. The gut will be stiff and brittle. Note if it is torn and if there is soiling on the surface. The end is tied with string. Sometimes those areas have tears.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection II-A-4370

Inside view of a gut hat.
This is the underside of a gut hat, and you can see the hat has been lined with a woven textile. The red painted areas are “welting” or extra pieces sewn into the seam. Typically, on this kind of artifact welting is made from esophagus. This hat has been crushed and is very dirty.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection 2008-10-1

Bag made of gut.
This gut bag is made from strips of intestine, with little bits of wool yarn decoration sewn into the seams. The top edge appears to be painted esophagus. Sometimes, intestine may have a long white line down the center. This is where the mesentery (removed during processing) was attached to the intestine. The gut is thinner in this area and may have tears. Noting if you see the white mesentery line is nice because it might help with cultural attribution. Some cultures preferred to have this line at the center, and others cut the intestine tube open along this line instead.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection 2003-1-1

Close-up of embroidered gut bag reveals holes.
This embroidered bag is lined with textile, and has small holes that might indicate insect damage. In addition to stomach, intestine, and esophagus, sometimes the membranes around other organs such as the heart or liver, were used to make objects. These membranes are very very thin and delicate.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection II-F-61