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On Saturday, November 7th, our LIS 652 Archives Management class had the good fortune of being allowed a private tour of Doris Duke's Shagri La - Center for Islamic Arts and Cultures, led by archivist, Dawn Sueoka. Doris Duke, was an heiress and philanthropist, who traveled the world and learned about different cultures. In her travels, she also collected an amazing array of Islamic art. Upon entering, we were greeted with intricate layers of artwork embedded in the ceiling, walls, furniture, light fixtures, and all the spaces we occupied. As we wandered through the courtyard next, we could see how careful landscaping also added to the beauty of the estate.
We learned from Dawn about some of the preservation challenges of having open-air areas within Hawaii's tropical climate, bordered by the Pacific Ocean and its salty spray ... all beautiful, but also notoriously bad for collections. What was interesting to note, was they discovered the objects seem to have adjusted -- in fact, in the case of some composite objects e.g. objects made with wood and mother of pearl inlay, and other materials, if the object was placed in "ideal" temperature and RH settings, it would cause some of the pieces to pop out as the materials expanded or retracted in a controlled environment. So, in a sense the environment works well for some of the objects. We learned there are visiting interns and conservators who work on different environmental challenges within the estate. An example we could see, was in the foyer, upon initial entry, where the ceiling which was comprised of beautiful designs painted and carved / gilded in wood, which we were told an intern spent time working on this past summer. Read this awesome blog post about it for more detail.
Each room we saw, was decorated in an original way, showcasing different themes and art. One treat, was also having the opportunity to "meet" Hermione Granger, the large drop-freezer recently acquired to freeze some of the items in the collection that had pest issues. Hermione sits outside the textile room, where Dawn had set up some interesting archival objects for us to view. The room was cooled, and the papers we saw showed preliminary drawings of the estate, photographs, and other interesting papers. Dawn mentioned it's been useful to have the records on-hand, so they can track how things were done. She also pointed out the importance of respect des fonds, and keeping the Hawaii records with the estate here, and how integral it has been to referencing issues with the estate.
A big Mahalo goes out to Dainan Skeem, our instructor for Archives Management, for securing this amazing opportunity for our class. I've been thoroughly enjoying the curriculum offered by the LIS program at UH Manoa, and especially the archives track courses!
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