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Condition Reporting

Keratins

Long parka made from puffin.
Bird skin parkas typically shed feathers readily whenever they are moved. The bird skins are rather thin, and can become brittle with time. They are often delicate.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection 2015-10-1

Close-up of feathers on the end of an arrow.
Feathers are often split down the middle and used as the fletching on arrows. Sometimes they are additional cut or notched. Fletching is often detached, soiled, distorted, or broken.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection

Close-up of feathers on the end of an arrow.
These feathers show areas of white mold.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection 2003-3-7

Musk ox horn.
Musk ox horn is made of keratin, and sometimes it is seen as a material for making jewelry.

Photo credit: Ellen Carrlee

Baleen fibers.
Baleen is made of keratin and its structure is a combination of coarse fibers and flat plates rather like fingernail. The fibers can fray, and the flat plates can split and delaminate.

Photo credit: Ellen Carrlee

Badly delaminating baleen.
Here is an example of  badly delaminating and peeling baleen object, with some of the fibrous layer exposed as well.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection II-A-2260

A bucket with bug damage.
This tiny model bucket has been severely eaten by bugs, and its little wooden handle has detached. The bucket had been stuffed with a bit of plastic bag to help retain its shape.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection 2015-5-2

Darkened spoon/ladel
While at first glance this spoon might look like wood with a pronounced grain pattern, this is mountain goat horn. The layers of horn here are slightly delaminating.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection II-B-897

Close-up of a lighter-colored spoon.
This is a detail of a spoon also made from horn, but I’m not certain if it is domestic cow horn or Dall sheep horn.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection II-B-973

A delaminating claw.
Here is an example of a claw that is suffering from a bit of delaminating at its back end, as well as some abrasion and wear on its outer curve.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum conservation research collection

Fraying hoof.
The black elements on this rattle are deer hooves…often referred to as “deer toes”. They are generally stable but can delaminate or crack. The inner surface of the drilled holes can be sharp, and in this case it has frayed the string that holds them to the rattle.

Photo credit: Sheldon Jackson Museum collection SJ-I-A-816

Close-up of quills hanging from a mask.
Bird quill is a flexible keratin material that is sometimes seen on mask appendages. It is often stable but sometimes split.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection II-A-5398

Quillwork.
Porcupine quill embroidery sometimes suffers abrasion or insect damage, but the most common damage is fading of the colorful dyes. This section of quillwork on a jacket is the only area where the yellow is still vivid. Blues are purples are other colors that seem to fade readily.

Photo credit: Alaska State Museum collection II-C-90

Close-up of dall sheep head profile.
This is the horn of a Dall sheep. Remember, horns are made of keratin, like fingernails and feathers. They grow for the whole life of the animal, unlike antlers that have a structure more like bone and are shed every year.

Photo credit: Ellen Carrlee