Storing Hawaiian Kapa

The goals of safe storage are to avoid insects, mold, light damage, damage from acid vapors and damage due to mishandling and the creasing of folds.   The following two methods are recommended for the long term storage of tapa. It is important to remember that no matter what precautions are taken, problems can occur with time. It is essential that all stored materials be examined at least once every six months.
Rolled Storage
For large tapa, rolling is the safest storage method. By rolling oversized pieces onto the outside of a rigid roll, folds and creases can be avoided. The rolls can then be suspended from bars or stored within acid free boxes. Rolls with a diameter of at least 3” should be used; the larger the diameter, the better. Acid free rolls are recommended. If it is necessary to use a common cardboard roll, the outside of the roll must be carefully covered with aluminum foil or heavy weight polyethylene plastic sheeting to ensure that acid vapors do not migrate from the roll onto the tapa. To roll the tapa, lay it face down on a clean surface then cover the top of the tapa with sheets of acid free tissue.  The tissue will act as interleaving and additional padding for the tapa as it is rolled onto itself over the roll. The rolled tapa should then be protected from dust and light by covering with acid free tissue or a well washed white cotton or poly/cotton bed sheet. The wrapping on the rolls can be secured with ¾” wide twill tape.
In storage locations where mold is not a threat yet insects are, the rolls should be wrapped in polyethylene plastic bags or sheeting. If mold is a greater threat than insects, plastic bags should not be used as stagnant air encourages mold growth. All stored materials should be examined for mold or insect damage at least once every six months.
Flat Storage
Smaller pieces of tapa should be stored flat in boxes. The boxes will provide protection from mishandling and from dust and light. Acid free boxes should be used. If acid free boxes are not used, the next best is to line a gift box with unbleached cotton muslin, white cotton towels or cotton or cotton/poly sheets.   All of these materials should be well washed before use. Ideally, the storage box should be large enough to avoid folding of the tapa.

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