The optimum system for displaying most tapa involves vertical hanging within a shadowbox frame with a plexiglass or other UV absorbing acrylic sheet front. The advantages of framing include protection from dust, insects and light. Framed tapa should be hung away from direct sunlight or harsh spotlights and should be hung in drier parts of the house. The following steps should be followed in proper framing of tapa:
a. Only top grade archival materials which are specified as acid-free and lignin-free should be used within the frame.
b. If a wooden frame is used, the interior faces should be coated to keep acidic vapors from migrating into the tapa. Clear epoxy boat resin works well. By oiling or waxing the exterior faces of the wood frame, acidic vapors will be free to migrate out of the frame away from the tapa.
c. The reverse of the frame must be sealed with an acid-free board. The edges of the board should be taped to the reverse of the frame to hinder insect introduction into the tapa.
d. A shadow box frame should be used. This type of frame will keep the plexiglass away from the tapa, allowing plenty of air circulation between the plexiglass and the tapa. Plexiglass which contacts the tapa will lead to mold growth. In addition glass which lays directly against the work may, in time, begin to stick to the surface paint on the tapa causing permanent damage.
e. Small bumpers should be used at the bottom, reverse of the frame to keep the back of the assemblage away from the wall, allowing air circulation behind the frame.
One of the simplest methods for displaying tapa in sound condition is draping over a padded pole. The advantages of this method include the ease of set-up and take-down. The tapa is simply laid over the prepared wooden pole which can be hung from the wall or from within a large frame with brackets. As wood off-gasses acidic vapors, the bar should be coated with the epoxy boat resin or covering the pole with polyethylene plastic sheeting , mylar or aluminium foil. The coated wood dowel can then be padded with polyester batting coered with unbleached muslin to safely accept the draped tapa. To avoid distorting the tapa over time, the drape of the tapa can be changed slightly, every six months.
1 Tackling, stapling or nailing to the wall. Metal tacks, staples and nails will cause damage to the tapa. Damage is caused initially as holes are created when the hardware is pushed through the tapa. With time, these holes will enlarge, causing distortion of the tapa as gravity pulls it down against the tacks. Further damage will occur as the metal rusts or corrodes, leading to weakening and staining of the fibers. Tacks, staples and nails are all difficult if not impossible to remove from the wall once they are applied. Removing them to relocate, sterilize or clean the tapa will cause additional damage to the tapa. Insects and mold are likely to attack the tapa where it is in the direct contact with the wall.
Stitching Velcro or cloth backings to tapa is not recommended. Although this technique is often used for textiles, it is not appropriate for tapa which is an essentially solid sheet, without holes beween woven elements as is found with textiles. With sewing, areas of weakness are formed as holes are made in the tapa where the needle passes through. With time, the thread holes will enlarge if the tapa sags on its mount.
Tapa should never be sandwiched in place by being pressed behind glass or plexiglass. The first reason for this is that moisture forms easily on both glass and plexi , allowing mold to grow in the tight air space between the glazing and tapa. In time, the paints used to decorate tapa which has been sandwiched will stick to the glass or acrylic sheet, causing permanent losses and damage.
Tapa which has been stored folded for long periods of time often sustains folds and creases across the surface. With care,, folds and creases are possible to diminish although complete removal is not always possible. However it may be possible to remove the creases by simply unfolding the tapa and allowing it to lay flat for awhile. The tapa should be laid out on a clean surface where it can be left for at least five days. A dining table or bed can be used or the tapa can be draped over a padded rod. Reference and Acknowledgement This article and other articles included in the series of (Conserving Hawaiian Kapa) is from a handout written by the Pacific Regional Conservation Center of Bishop Museum, now known as the Department of Art Conservation. If you find you have more questions about tapa conservation, you can contact the center at www.bishopmuseum.org/research/conservation.html.