View Full Version : Packing Kachinas

04-05-2011, 09:29 AM
We are in the process of packing a large collection of Native American artifacts for shipment and storage, many of which are Kachinas of various sizes. I was told that, for spiritual reasons, these Kachinas must be packed upright. I have several plans for packing them, but I need to know if there is a preferred method for packing, both to maintain any spiritual needs, and also for the maximum safety of the pieces. We will be doing bulk packing (several Kachinas per box), mostly in compartmentalized binboxes, and smaller compartmentalized cartons. Any experienced enlightenment will be appreciated.

Jamie Hascall
04-05-2011, 12:24 PM
My experience with packing Kachinas was with my wife's collection for our move to Santa Fe. I found that packing upright was necessary for the safety of the feathers and appendages. I used small pieces of soft foam carved to act as gates providing blocking and support to the main body structure between arms etc. I would often tie them on with twill tape before placing the padded figure into a compartment, but also used hot glue to place specific blocks in the compartment before placing the Kachina and adding the opposing blocking. The hard part was often providing support to the top to keep the figure in place if the box went upside-down.

Fragile surfaces are a real problem and must be considered in any packing strategy. Tying a piece of soft tissue around the body before blocking may help reduce abrasion to those areas. My main objective was to get as much stabilization of the object as possible with as little contact as necessary. Consider any appendage as weakly attached at best.

Above all, these truly are a class of objects that command reverence and respect. They are embodiments of spirits that have a wide range of characters from mischevious to protective. My wife worked on the Hopi reservation for a number of years and has many stories involving the Kachinas. When things go missing in our house, we wonder if they are involved. Giving them the gentle protection they need for the move should keep them on your good side.


04-06-2011, 02:09 PM
Thanks Jamie. Sounds pretty much like what we have planned. We want to keep these little spirits happy on their journey. I was hoping there might be a magic formula (like peanuts or some other dunnage which might not be obvious,) but I guess not. We will use your suggestions.

David Jensen (jfocus)
Unified Fine Arts Services, LLC.

T. Ashley McGrew
04-06-2011, 03:30 PM
Jamie's input all matches up well with my experience. The key seems to be to pick your point of contact avoiding extremities and crackly paint and such. Luckily this is often possible to do on the back of the figure. By attaching a foam post to come off the back of whatever support structure you are using. Many people use either twill or more recently teflon tape to "belt" the figure in place. If you use twill tape you may need to make a little sleeve of tyvek softwrap or something since the twill can abraid or burnish the paint pretty easily.
The thing about going to the trouble to set this up and secure these things is that many people decide that they will double up and use the same packing as a storage mount. Below are some examples.


This seems to be a fairly common style of storage/shipping mount that I have seen. These can be grouped back to back in rows in larger boxes for transit and then go right on the shelf whereever they end up living. Notice at the bottom around the base are small polyethylene foam blocks (in this case they were using Tri rod cut in half).


This variation is also interesting because it orients the figure on the diagonal which can provide slightly more efficient use of shelf space (this can be helpful because a high percentage of these guys are holding objects out to the sides of their torso - so they "eat" space up pretty quick) and also this style allows for better visibility to the sides and especially back of the piece.

The ultimate example of paring downn to the basics that I have ever done is shown in the pictures below.


The base is made of 9 lb ethafoam (which cuts like wood basically). The block contacting the back of the figure is Tri-rod a fine "grain" Polyethylene (a varatiaton of backer rod) which has a smooth "skin" on it. The "belting" here is commercial grade teflon threadseal tape (available in McMaster Carr). The upright is sealed dowel rod (we tried clear acrylic rod but folks didn't like the "feel" of the stuff). The ultimate advantage of this style is that it provides pretty good visual access for researchers and is not overly obtrusive.
Groups of these guys were held down (by the base) using stretch wrap and put in boxes - see below.



One thing that is not in any of these images - on Katsina that are not attached to bases you may need to add a second length of teflon or twill to hold the piece down on your mount. Of course I am leaving out lots of other details but hopefully some pictures might give you some ideas or something. Somewhere I have much better images I just can't find them right now.

In terms of the beliefs of different cultures I don't think it is good to generalize too much. For one thing the importance of these figures in Hopi and Zuni cultures will be much different than to, say the Navaho.
One thing that does seem to be good though is that - when possible - it is considered good form to keep them together by culture (since they are related so to speak). The best thing of course and what is always recommended is to be in contact with initiated members of tribal organizations for guidence in terms of how things should be shelved, whether they should be photographed or viewed by the public etc...
Failing that, of course in general, being thoughtful and respectful in how you approach any of this kind of material is kind of a given.
Good luck!


04-11-2011, 01:28 PM
Good stuff, Ashley. Thanks for the good ideas. Pictures do speak many words. Every bit of new knowledge helps.