Recently I blogged about preparing an 18th century gown (now on display in European Splendour). A few weeks ago, the same skills were applied to a very different type of garment—the replica All Blacks “Originals” 1905 jersey.
The Replica Project
The actual textile machinery used to create the 1905 jerseys was restored and put back into action for the project. According to Stephen Berg, Director of the NZ Rugby Museum, the replicas were created to give museum visitors the chance to try on this iconic piece of New Zealand history. In Stephen’s words, ” It was important for the rugby museum to be able to offer our visitors the chance to touch and feel an authentic All Blacks jersey, (it’s as close as you can get!). So many of our objects are hidden away behind glass, it can get a little dull only using your eyes and ears”.
Te Papa has one of the 10 replica 1905 jerseys in our collection (only a dozen or so authentic 1905 jerseys are known to still exist; one of these is in the collection of the NZ Rugby Museum and another at New Zealand Rugby House in Wellington).
When I set out to prepare the garment, I researched images to create a picture in my mind of how the garment ought to sit on the body relative to the arms and shoulders. I wanted to make sure that the jersey would look convincing, yet also had to ensure it would not be stretched (e.g. on a large mannequin) to an unsafe extent over the course of the 3 month display.
The replica jersey is a copy of the one worn by Jimmy Hunter, All Black #118, a Hawera boy born in 1880 who played the position of second five eighth, or centre.
The facts of Jimmy’s stature -1.68 m (5 ft, 6 inches) and 73 kg (161 lb) – are relevant to the choice of mannequin, which turned out to be child-sized. Moreover, this small size reflects historic trends that have been researched by Massey University School of Sport and Exercise. Relative to the likes of today’s All Blacks, the 1905 team was shorter and lighter, by about 12 cm and 21.5 kg respectively.
Nevertheless, I did have to alter the mannequin to be the muscled adult Jimmy Hunter was, rather than a scrawny kid. The pectorals, latissiumus dorsi and trapezius muscles were fashioned out of polyester wadding. Arms were made using Fosshape, a thermosetting synthetic felt.
Getting the jersey ready for exhibition was also a great opportunity to study and more fully document the aspects of its manufacture so that this information can be more readily made available to future researchers.
The information has been shared with the New Zealand Rugby Museum in order that it can help create a database of information on the All Blacks jersey. The NZRM hopes that the database will be an invaluable aid for assisting to authenticate and date jerseys. With growing interest being shown in collecting All Blacks jerseys by private collectors and dealers, the Rugby Museum is being called on to provide expert advice.