Tapa cloth. Pounded bark and paint. Early to mid-twentieth century AD. Samoa. Ethnology, Bartlett Collection. UMMAA 47322.

After the death of Harley Harris Bartlett in February 1960, his sister Hazell donated to the Museum 77 objects he had acquired during his extensive travels. Bartlett directed the U-M Botanical Gardens from 1919 to 1955 and conducted important botanical research in Southeast Asia, Latin America, and North America. He was an inveterate collector of botanical specimens, ethnographic materials, books, stamps, and other objects. This tapa or bark cloth from the island of Samoa combined Bartlett’s longstanding interests in both plants and anthropology. It is a textile form made from the inner bark of mulberry and other trees. The bark is stripped, soaked, and then pounded to form a thin fabric, which is then decorated with painted or stamped designs. This piece is more than 5 feet long; only a small portion is visible here. The manufacture of bark cloth was invented in many regions of the world. The Museum has a small but diverse collection of Polynesian tapas, as well as examples of finished and unfinished bark cloth and associated tools from Melanesia, Mexico, Brazil, Cameroon and the Congo, Malaysia, and China.

Back to Day 76 or continue to Day 78.

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.