The Kluge-Ruhe Collection has nominated a Tiwi bark basket as one of Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts through a program sponsored by the Virginia Association of Museums (VAM). This eucalyptus bark basket, called a tunga, was made circa 1926 by a Tiwi artist on Bathurst Island in Australia’s Northern Territory. Tiwi people use tungas to collect food and water, and as ceremonial objects.
The Top 10 program, which runs from Aug 4 – 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.
“This tunga is extremely rare,” says Collections Manager Nicole Wade. “We have not found a comparable object of this age in any other museum collection in the United States. Unfortunately, the condition is such that we can’t exhibit it without conservation treatment.”
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 to benefit conservation at the museum of their choice.
“We hope everyone in Charlottesville will support our nomination and vote for our tunga,” says Kluge-Ruhe Director Margo Smith. “We’ve also notified Tiwi people at the art centers that loaned work for our current exhibition, We Are Tiwi, and are counting on their votes too.”
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 9th. Public votes will be considered by the panel as they make their final selections.
“This is the fourth year of our program, and we are so proud of the results that we are already seeing,” says Jennifer Thomas, executive director of VAM. “Each year we have more public involvement in our online voting, more objects being nominated, and more past honorees being conserved and saved.”