Hair consolidation and treatment of an insect-damaged dancing hat from Sierra Leone

Anya McDavis-Conway, Jakki Godfrey, Bruno P. Pouliot, and Richard Wolbers


This paper was presented in the form of a poster at both the AIC’s 34th Annual Meeting in Providence, RI and the 2006 Association of North American Graduate Programs in Art Conservation (ANAGPIC) conference at Winterthur Museum. The poster discussed the consolidation and overall treatment of an insect damaged dancing hat from Sierra Leone. The object is part of the collection at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (UPMAA). The hat was treated as a practical component of the second year studies for the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. The dancing hat is primarily composed of goatskin/hair and raffia, and is decorated with cloth, cowrie shells, wooden elements, and mirrors. In the early 1980’s, the object became severely infested by clothes moths, which resulted in extensive damage to the goat hair. Before treatment, much of the hair remained, but was lying unattached to the skin. A novel method for consolidating the hair in situ was developed for the hat after both consultations with other conservators and testing. Different consolidants were tested using a nebulizer (mist application). Among the consolidants tested, a mixture of hydroxypropyl methylcellulose and Aquazol 500 produced the best results. This solution along with this method of application served to consolidate the loose hair in place while leaving it somewhat flexible and unchanged in appearance.

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2006 | Providence | Volume 13