Cassandra Canada’s New Mexico State University Internship at IHSF
Guatemalan Textile Collection
Cassandra Canada discovered IHSF through Sylvia Marinas, a cross-discipline professor at NMSU, who teaches a conservation course that Cassandra was attending as a requirement to receive a certificate in Museum Studies. Ms. Canada had previously visited IHSF several times on a tour with Ms. Marinas and her classmates. Cassandra, who graduated with her master's degree from NMSU in December 2014, had been struggling to think of a good project for her master’s thesis when she decided to call IHSF for help. After a conversation with Anne Morgan, the administrative assistant at IHSF, the Guatemalan textile collection was mentioned.
Cassandra immediately remembered the collection and thought it needed some work. She decided it would be a good opportunity to utilize it for her thesis research and at the same time enhance its value to IHSF. Since her master’s degree required her to do an internship, Cassandra took advantage of this opportunity at IHSF to get field experience, curate the collection, and use it as a form for her thesis.
Some of the work she is doing consists of examining the garments, removing anything that could harm them and preparing the textiles for archival preservation. Cassandra is also classifying and data-basing the textiles based on the design and colors of the garments as well as the region, village, and festival from which they are thought to have originated. Some of the garments found in the collection are brand new with price tags still on them while others appear to be worn but show no major signs of infestation.
Although most of the garments in the collection have no tag of identification to indicate exactly where they were sold or originated, Cassandra has came across one costume, in particular, that can be sourced to a particular village. With her basic understanding of the culture in that region, she can say with some confidence that they were part of a festival called a “Ritual of Reversal”, where the lower class would pretend to be the ruling class for either a day or week. The costume looks like it would have been worn by a teenage boy to mock someone in power. It resembles a very typical Spanish looking person; the hair being very light blonde and the face a pinkish color.
Another garment of interest that Cassandra came upon is a woven bag that was found with a vacated rainbow colored cocoon in it. The cocoon is suspected to have gotten the rainbow color due to the plant based dye used on the bag which may have gotten saturated in with the silk.
Cassandra is using photos, as well as written descriptions, to go along with each garment in the database. This makes it easier to differentiate between the garments and document the individual details of each piece. By doing this, she is able to record any damage a piece may have so that it can be clearly identified in the future.
Ms. Canada has completed her internship here at IHSF, a crucial part of her degree program, which was graded by a committee to determine whether she could graduate from the university with her Masters Degree in Anthropology. After receiving her degree, she decided to volunteer at IHSF and continues to curate the Guatamalan collection.