Recent News at Kluge-Ruhe

Kluge-Ruhe in Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts Competition • Saturday August 8, 2015

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection has nominated a bark painting as one of Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts through a program sponsored by the Virginia Association of Museums (VAM). This painting, titled Ngalkunburriyaymi and Ngalyod, was made circa 1926 by Namerredje Guymala in Arnhem Land in Australia’s Northern Territory.

In this painting, Guymala depicts the ancestral Rainbow Serpent, who takes three forms: Yingarna (the mother of all ancestral beings), Ngalyod (her son), and Ngalkunburriyaymi (Nglayod’s sister). Guymala portrays Ngalyod as a composite being with a crocodile head, a snake body, a fish tail, an emu breast plate, and kangaroo ears. Ngalyod protects sacred places by encircling and swallowing other beings. Guymala likewise represents Ngalyod surrounding Ngalkunburriyaymi, protecting her.

Wally Caruana, former curator at the National Gallery of Australia, described Guymala as “a superb draughtsman with a recognizably individual ‘hand.’” He is known for his use of the artistic style – kabimbebme or “color coming out.” The bold red, black, yellow, pink and white stripes emphasize kabimbebme making Ngalyod appear to slither out from the bark. By preserving this work, the Kluge-Ruhe Collection hopes to continue to raise awareness of the complexity and sophistication of Aboriginal art. Yet, until we can prevent color coming off, we cannot display Guymala’s mastery of color coming out.

Collections Manager Nicole Wade stated, “While this particular work is structurally stable, it has extensive areas of paint loss, and other areas of actively lifting, tenting, and flaking paint. Endangered areas can be consolidated and stabilized by a conservator, returning the work to an exhibitable condition.”

The Top 10 program, which runs from August 1 – 23, raises awareness about the conservation needs of museum collections throughout Virginia and Washington D.C. It also provides an opportunity for the public to participate by voting for a favorite artifact online at

Although the Top 10 honorees do not receive a monetary reward, museums can use the designation to draw attention to their conservation needs. A bark painting from the Kluge-Ruhe Collection was named to the Top 10 in 2011, and became the focus of a fundraising campaign. Voters can make donations on the Top 10 site or on Kluge-Ruhe’s website to benefit conservation at the museum of their choice.

“We hope everyone in Charlottesville will support our nomination and vote for our bark painting,” says Kluge-Ruhe Director Margo Smith. Need quote here
Nominations will be reviewed by an independent panel of collections and conservation experts, and Top 10 honorees, as well as a “People’s Choice” honoree, will be announced September 15th. Public votes will be considered by the panel as they make their final selections.

“Each year that we do this program, I am amazed by the diversity and importance of the artifacts in the care of Virginia’s museums. Each year, we have success raising awareness for endangered artifacts, and collecting institutions benefit from the Top 10 by garnering support for their conservation efforts. I am confident that this year will be no different,” says Jennifer Thomas, VAM’s executive director.

Questions about Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifact program can be directed to Christina Newton at Virginia Association of Museums at (804)358-3173 or

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