In 2010, the AAMI received a collection of Liberian pottery from Jim and Mary Evans of Mt. Vernon. While living in Liberia in the 1970s, The Evanses purchased many clay pieces from local potters. Their donation to the museum included over 30 pieces. Many pieces from the collection were made by individuals from the Gio cultural group, while others were purchased from Mandingo traders. Most of the pieces are coiled clay with carbon-set black finishes.
Until now, most of the pieces have been stored in the museum’s collections storage facility on open shelving. This year, the museum received a grant from the Witwer Trust to rehouse the entire collection in order to maximize its long-term preservation. The care and preservation of African American heritage is a key component of the museum’s mission. African artifacts like these help us tell a more complete picture of this story. Proper preservation is just as important as collecting objects, documents, photographs, and oral histories. Our efforts to provide the best possible long-term storage for our collection ensure that it is preserved in perpetuity for many generations to come.
Right now, we are designing and constructing custom storage solutions to protect each piece from airborne pollutants (like dust) and provide more stable support. For this piece, I prepared the object for its new home just by lightly dusting with a soft, natural bristle brush. As you can see, I’m also wearing gloves to make sure no oils or dirt from my hands get on the pot!
Next, I carved six triangular supports from a block of polyethylene foam. The pot has a rounded base, and the supports will keep it stable and secure.
I lined the bottom of the tray with Volara, a soft, flexible polyethylene foam. I also padded the side of each foam support that will come in contact with the pot. Volara is much softer than the foam supports, and I wanted to be sure the pot wouldn’t’ get scratched. The foam supports are glued to the bottom of the tray and cotton tying tape adds extra security.
I used a box with a drop front and removable tray. This will minimize handling of the actual pot, keeping it even safer. The last step is simply labeling the box and putting it on the shelf!