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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Tapa cloth, also known as tree bark

by conservation

1/24/2018

conservation , tapa cloth , behind the scenes

This week, our textile conservator is preparing to make new storage boxes for the museum’s collection of tapa cloth, which you can see here.  Tapa cloth isn’t technically cloth at all:  it’s tree bark!  The bark is stripped off a tree or shrub (usually mulberry or fig) and beaten and soaked until it is thin and flexible, then decorated with paints or stamped designs.  This piece is from Western Samoa.  Tapa cloth was once used for all sorts of things, just as one might use more conventional, woven fabric.