Conserving a Yup'ik Mask



working at the Med is very special it's an amazing collection spanning the globe I work on objects from Africa the Pacific and the Americas here I have an anthropology background so I've always been interested in how objects are made now I get to ask questions about individual objects how this individual object was made and the life that's lived before coming to this museum conservators always condition check the objects when they come into the collection the wood on the Ubik mask is driftwood it's from Alaska that clearly had had a lot of use in the past as well as conservation treatments so part of my job was is clothes looking and figuring out the story behind the piece the appendages they're easily inserted and reinserted and so I wanted to make sure that things were in the right place and understand what was missing these pieces are often connected to living communities they often have people still around using similar objects so the opportunity came up to work with Tuna McIntyre a Ubik dancer who dances masks similar to this piece I find many of these masks in many museums around the world in a very sad state when it was first created imagine the brilliance what you are looking at here released culmination of 30 centuries of life in our region where do the ideas for these come from from dreams and from visions of their medicine people but this particular design has occurred over and over and over again in some way or another the seal which spits the central figure is emerging out of the kayak it's what we humans will recognize as an entity emerging out of the piece this hoop is a representation of the universe out there this at one time held a lot of appendages there may have been wing structures and feet and these fish I bet you there were more flounders cuz we're saying to the universe please give us more fish I don't understand these broken Colpitts those probably are kind of like bloodsport that's exactly where they go masks this big would hang from the rafters my dancer would walk up to it and dance behind it and these feathers needs to stand like this and with the Stars being up to here so that when the mask is danced at night you just see this right there stars and this always escapes people why are these little lines here aside from being decorative black is the realm of night it's the realm of the spirit things we don't understand and we care and why red red is our blood which binds us all seemingly just simple lines viewed with great historical significance to us you Peaks I feel that wherever we can repair and we know what to do we should repair them it helped to have this conversation with Jeanette we were able to know which things were in the wrong position for example we had two flippers one of those was a back flipper and one was a front flipper when we put it into its proper position suddenly you see that there's a seal coming through this Hayek's structure and it has a front flipper as it moves forward and a back flipper these pieces often that treatment has to be guided by what the material is telling you whether it can be held in that way or bent or moved or shifted or humidified really is informed by what the material is telling you the treatment that was attaching the hoop to the mask was failing and it was slightly moved down which I realized in conversation with to note that this is something that would have encompassed all of it it's the universe I shifted the whole who the two sides really slid into place and you could tell that's exactly where it was meant to sit feathers that are attached to the mask it suffered damaged so I was able to use the shaft of a replacement feather the rankest is a way to bridge over the breaks and the loss these small things were making the mass sit more correctly the pieces were fitting better the mask is stable and it's going to be displayed in the American wing for the first time that's why it was a great opportunity to connect tuna with the piece to connect it to the other Ubik masks that are being displayed these things have very extended lives and things can change over time it was a very unique experience now it's in a better position to be understood and interpreted you you

10 Comments

  • Marenna Boutilier

    April 15, 2019

    I love these conservation videos!

    Reply
  • katy hobson

    April 15, 2019

    I don't understand how The MET videos are getting so few views. They are beautifully shot, informative, exciting and wonderfully sensitive to the history of each featured artifact.

    Reply
  • Eloise

    April 15, 2019

    That is a really beautiful mask. I think it would be a brilliant idea to take an image of the mask and then photoshop the original colours onto it to display beside the piece. Then people can see how it would have been when freshly made 🙂

    Reply
  • Crushi! Official Channel of Music, Art and Weird

    April 15, 2019

    Wow really beautiful video! Thank you so much!

    Reply
  • George Washington's Mount Vernon

    April 15, 2019

    What a wonderful object, great video! Would love to see a longer video of Chuna talking about other Yup'ik objects.

    Reply
  • Ary727

    April 15, 2019

    It would be incredibly interesting to have someone who's knowledgeable and experienced in the significance behind certain works of art to speak on the meanings and history of the works. It's one thing to read a book but to hear it from the mouth of someone who has a deeply rooted personal connection to the heritage and culture of these works is fascinating. It adds a layer of understanding and appreciation as to why the art was created. I love these conservation videos. Please keep up the amazing work.

    Reply
  • Ευγενία

    April 15, 2019

    what a beautiful piece of art and culture

    Reply
  • Camille F

    April 15, 2019

    What a beautiful piece with a beautiful and spiritual history!

    Reply
  • Prioslupus

    April 15, 2019

    Please just let McIntyre talk for an hour or so about yup'ik masks in your collection. So much knowledge just waiting to burst out.

    Reply
  • Indigo Child

    April 15, 2019

    Wonderful background info

    Reply

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