By Camille Myers Breeze
The latest in our series of MTS Handouts
is called Displaying Textiles
, and is designed to help you choose the best locations and methods for displaying your textiles.
By the time you see visible changes, such as color fading, yellowing, tears, or insect activity, your textile has already been irreversibly damaged. Continuing to display a textile under poor display conditions will accelerate deterioration and shorten the textile’s useful and/or decorative lifespan. Having a textile conservator stabilize the textile can allow it to be displayed again, but only if sensible precautions are taken.
Displaying a framed textile in an area of low or indirect light is not enough to protect it from light damage. Photo courtesy of the Fairbanks House, Dedham, MA.
Displaying a textile in a frame with no glazing, or with non-filtering glazing, is harmful to the textile. Anything framed prior to the 1980s will have plain glass or acrylic with no ultraviolet-filtering capacities. All framed textiles should be retrofitted with UV-filtering glazing or stored safely. Even with UV-filtered glazing, a framed textile can be harmed by light, particularly sunlight, which heats up the fibers causing harmful expansion and contraction.
The best place in your home for a framed textile is an interior wall that receives little or no light, such as a hallway.
Tapestries, quilts, and other large, flat textiles, can be safely displayed on a wall without a display case if the conditions in the room are suitable. Once a safe location has been determined to hang your flat textile, a conservator can provide a Velcro hanging system. Ideally, two textiles, such as two similarly-sized quilts, will be rotated to allow each one six months on display followed by six months in an archival storage box kept in a safe location.
Upgrading to a display case made of UV-filtering acrylin can allow for longer-term, safe textile display.
By Camille Myers Breeze
Museum Textile Services and the Peabody Historical Society of Peabody, Mass, will host a Sampler Study Day at the Historical Society's Smith Barn at 38 Felton Street, Peabody on Saturday, January 26, 2013 from 10-12. To reserve a space please call the Peabody Historical Society at 978-977-0514 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image courtesy of Peabody Historical Society.
This event is for individuals who own antique needlework samplers and pictorial embroideries and would like to learn more about the condition, significance, and proper care of these textiles. Members of the public are invited to bring their samplers to the Society's Smith Barn on Sampler Study Day for a professional evaluation. The fee to participate in this program is $20 per sampler.
Image courtesy of Museum Textile Services.
Camille Breeze will evaluate the condition of each sampler brought to the event and provide participants with a one-page conservation worksheet. She will also discuss potential conservation issues and make recommendations for the appropriate mounting and framing of these heirlooms. Peabody Historical Society Curator Heather Leavell and Assistant Curator Lyn FitzGerald will share information related to the age, decorative motifs, and overall style of each sampler. They will also provide resources for researching the history of a sampler's maker. To ensure the long-term preservation of these textiles, Leavell and FitzGerald will advise participants on the proper care of samplers, including optimal storage and environmental conditions.
Image courtesy of Museum Textile Services.
Museum Textile Service's Cara Jordan will be help participants complete a short survey to include their samplers in a searchable online database administered by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America
. The goal of the NSCDA Sampler Survey is to inventory all extant samplers and pictorial embroideries in museums and private collections to promote the preservation and study of this important art form.
If your historical society or museum is interested in hosting a Sampler Study Day, please contact Camille Myers Breeze at email@example.com or call 978-474-9200.
by Camille Myers Breeze
When the opportunity to purchase this 1837 New Hampshire sampler arose, I jumped on. The MTS study collection contains many such textiles that come into our hands in need of a conservator's attention.
Sarah R Hamilton sampler before conservation
Three lines of inscriptions read "Sarah R Hamilton born Oct 3rd 1825", "George L Hamilton born Dec 14th 1828," and the maker's inscription, "Sarah R. Hamilton aged 12."
The inscriptions have been tampered with over time
Close examination of these lines show several layers of intervention. Green silk thread had been used to go over parts of the two top lines. At an earlier time, all three lines were also traced in what appears to be pencil. Beneath these the original cross stitching appeared as a thin white silk thread.
Reverse of green over-stitching
The reverse of the sampler shows the later green threads and original white threads below.
We decided to remove the new green thread along with as much of the pencil as possible. This photo shows the front of the sampler after this has been done.
Inscriptions after over-stitching and pencil are removed
In the closeup below-left you can see that green ink was also used at some point to touch up the lettering. Spot cleaning of the stitching with deionized water was successful in removing this green ink, seen on blotting paper below right.
Ink before removal
Results of spot cleaning
The reverse of the treated area held one additional surprise for conservators. By unspinning some of the original white embroidery threads it became clear that these letters were originally turquoise blue, a common color from the time period. Chemical processed had caused the silk thread to deteriorate and the dye to fail not only where it was exposed to light on the front, but everywhere except the core of the thread and at some knots.
New blue over-stitching
In light of this new evidence, we decided to restore the inscriptions to their original blue color. We carefully matched the original dye with a new blue mercerized cotton embroidery floss.
New cross stitches were carefully placed over the deteriorated letters in these three lines as well as other places the same thread was used. The original thread was left in place and is now protected beneath the new stitches.
The final image below shows the sampler after it was humidified, mounted and framed by Conservation Assistant Cara Jordan. The restored lettering makes the sampler more legible and reminds us of the cheerful colors originally chosen by 12-year-old Sarah Hamilton for her sampler.
Sarah R Hamilton sampler after conservation
The restoration of deteriorated lettering on the Sarah R Hamilton was an unusual treatment for Museum Textile Services. Having performed this treatment on an item in our study collection, we can now offer a similar restoration it to a client should the circumstances call for it.
This sampler now hangs proudly in the Museum Textile Services conservation studio.
by Sarah Berlinger, Technician
Framing is an important aspect of conservation that is oftentimes overlooked. In the interest of time, money, or waiting to obtain institutional permission, items that need conservation framing may be conserved but left unframed, or not conserved at all. At Museum Textile Services, our framing is an affordable upgrade for your object, and our conservation framing techniques protect your objects now and into the future.
Sampler before conservation. The acidic framing materials and simple glass are not protecting this sampler from light and insects. Photos courtesy of the Fairbanks House.
In order to limit further deterioration of objects, we only use archival-quality framing supplies, such as backing board, and UV-filtering glass or acrylic. The acrylic spacers we use to keep objects off glass must also be archival, as they are in close proximity to the object.
Sampler after conservation. A new Larson-Juhl frame, Tru-Vue Optium acrylic, and Marvelseal backing complete the new framing system. Photos courtesy of the Fairbanks House.
We have a fine selection of high-quality Larson-Juhl and Decor period-style frames to choose from that are sure to suit your tastes and be suitable for your textile. If you wish to see a wider variety of moldings, our frame supplier will meet with you at Museum Textile Services where you can choose from among hundreds (!) of wood and metal frame moldings. Your textile never leaves our studio and all framing is done by our staff.
Before framing, your conserved object and frame are vacuumed and inspected for stray fibers and dust. After the spacers are installed on the UV-filtering glass or acrylic, the mounted textile is placed in the frame and held in place with stainless-steel brads. The entire package is backed with an archival barrier material called Marvelseal, which provides a stable environment that is virtually pest proof. Hooks and hanging wire (or D-rings for larger objects) are then installed and the object is ready for display.
This American flag was located in a secret tunnel on the Underground Railroad. It has been hand stitched to a fabric-covered panel and pressure-mounted with UV-filtering acrylic. Photo courtesy of the Concord Art Association.
For larger items, including quilts and flags, we rely on our colleagues at Small Corp. Inc
. in Greenfield, Massachusetts, to construct state-of-the-art museum panels and 5-sided ultraviolet-filtering acrylic cases, which maximize both protection and display potential.
Please consider having your objects conservation framed, whether they’ve been recently conserved or not. The fate of your object might truly depend on it.
Note: Many thanks to technician Sarah Berlinger for her wonderful work and great blog posts. She will continue to make appearances in the MTS blog while she pursues her career goals.
by Sarah Berlinger, Technician
The Fairbanks House, located in Dedham, Massachusetts, is notable not only for its age, but for its impressive collection of American crafts and memorabilia. The house, whose first rooms were constructed around 1640, is believed to be the oldest surviving timber frame house in the United States. As a historic house museum, the Fairbanks House endeavors to fully represent the lives and time periods of different groups of Fairbanks family members who have occupied the house over the years. Included in those representations are various crafts and works of art created by the family over the years.
In 2008, Museum Textile Services conducted an initial survey of the collection of samplers in the house that were created by members of the extended family over the years; the collection includes samplers from 1763 to 1830. Thanks to a Tru-Vue Optium Conservation Grant
through the American Institute for Conservation
, we were able to conserve seven samplers for the Fairbanks House in 2011.
Eliza Woodward sampler before and after Conservation. Photos courtesy of the Fairbanks House
For young girls and teens, samplers served several purposes. They provided the opportunity for girls to work on their embroidery technique, something every woman needed to possess. Samplers also provided something to keep girls occupied during the day. Many of the samplers in the Fairbanks collection were done by girls around 11 years old. Some of the samplers were very simple; they contained renderings of the alphabet and numbers, a few examples of different stitches and borders, and sometimes a name. Others included elaborately embroidered scenes and designs, as well as poetic tributes.
One of the most endearing qualities of samplers is the mistakes they possess. For example, in the first line of the stanza in the 1798 sampler below, the "w" of "anew" would not fit within the border, so the stitcher, eleven year old Betsey Fairbanks, added the letter above the word. The same thing was done in the third line with the word "high." A larger image of this sampler can be found here
. Such missteps only increase the charm of these needleworks.
Before and after conservation. The embroidery reads "To Him that form'd our hearts anew/be endless praise and glory due/Thus heav'n shall raise her honors high/when earth and time grow old and die". Photos courtesy of the Fairbanks House.
Conservation efforts for the samplers included removal from acidic backing boards and adhesives, vacuuming, and some repairs to embroidery stitches. Some of the samplers that merited such attention were wet cleaned using deionized water. After removal from old boards, we constructed new cloth-covered mounting boards. The samplers were stitched to their new boards around the perimeter and at strategic points in the interior of the sampler. All the samplers were given new frames with Optium UV-filtering Acrylic. Conservation on a majority of the samplers was completed in time to be returned to the house for the Fairbanks family reunion in August.
Conserving objects with such a rich family history and artistic context is always a wonderful opportunity, and we're grateful to the Fairbanks House for letting us do our part to help preserve these small treasures for future generations of the Fairbanks Family to enjoy.
Before, during, and after conservation. Photos courtesy of the Fairbanks House.