This missionary-style dress is a remarkable product of colonial encounter. It was collected in Hawai’i in 1892 by a Mr. P.D. Woodruff and donated to the University Museum. The garment is made of bark cloth or tapa (also, kappa), a fabric produced by pounding the inner bark of the mulberry tree with wooden mallets. It is decorated with painted and stamped designs. Tapa was widely used throughout Polynesia for a variety of purposes, from dress to ceremonial use. It was, however, seldom stitched. This extremely rare tapa cloth garment was hand-sewn to create a modest late Victorian-style dress with frilled collar, reflecting the influence of Christian missionaries on its maker.
In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.