Although we were eager to begin treatment of the banner, we were equally fascinated by the history and subject matter. “The Yankee Doodle Detective” was a comedy play considered to be “one of the best melodramas ever produced.” It was written by and starred James Kyrle Mac Curdy, a Californian who lived from 5/2/1875 to 12/5/1923.
The history of the Lawrence Opera House is also interesting. It was built by the Boston & Lowell Railroad between 1878 and 1880 and its first performance was held on May 26, 1881. Located at 326 Essex Street, near B&L’s Grand Depot, the Lawrence Opera House was long considered the most ornamental building in the city. It was renamed The Rialto in 1920, and was then known for vaudevillian acts and cinema. It became the Winter Garden Auditorium around 1923 and was eventually demolished in the 1940s.
The banner is owned by a private citizen who has loaned it several times to the Lawrence Heritage State Park in Massachusetts. The banner is dirty and stained. It had been folded for an extended period of time, during which it was damaged by water. There are numerous tears, especially at the corners, from which presumably it was hung.
Mac Curdy is also known for “A Little Girl in a Big City” and “Pedro the Italian,” which was one of the first works of theater in which an Italian man was portray in a romantic, positive role. Mac Curdy died in Hollywood at the age of 47. His wife, fellow actor Kate Woods Fiske, outlived her husband by twenty five years.
The length and condition of the banner suggest that it could have been stretched across a street, in front of the building front, or even inside the B&L railroad depot. Its display life was probably only a few weeks originally, but it has survived nearly 100 years as a testament to the cosmopolitan energy of early 20th-century Lawrence, Massachusetts.
A large and dramatic textile arrived at Museum Textile Services earlier this year. Printed in bold letters on the fourteen-and-a-half-foot primed canvas is “JAMES KYRLE MAC CURDY’S GREAT PLAY THE YANKEE DOODLE DETECTIVE” at the “OPERA HOUSE LAWRENCE 3 DAYS STARTING THURSDAY SEPT. 2 MATINEES FRI. AND SAT.” The play was written in 1909, and September 2 fell on a Thursday in 1909, so we can feel confident that the banner also dates to 1909.
One week before the opening of a new student-curated exhibit at the Beard Gallery at Wheaton College, MTS intern Katrina Herron Gendreau and Director Camille Myers Breeze spent a day with students and staff, in what has become an annual collaboration between the school and Museum Textile Services.
The archival manikin was custom made by Camille and Kate as part of Kate's thesis capstone project for the Master's program in Museum Studies at Harvard University's Extension School. Kate is researching affordable costume-mounting solutions for small museum who cannot afford the services of a professional conservator or costume-mounting specialist.
It is not unusual for a museum or historical society to lose track of a object in the collection for years or even decades. That is what happened to the Buttonwoods Museum in Haverhill, Massachusetts, until recently when the scarlet cloak of Samuel White was rediscovered.
The votes are tallied and our readers' favorite textile from 2014 is the Presidential coverlet! There is no mistaking its symbolism, importance or date. What we discovered as we began our research, however, was just how unusual this textile is in many ways.
Museum Textile Services is celebrating 15 years of textile conservation in the 2014 e-Magazine!
I have really enjoyed not only reviewing all of the exciting things we've done so far in 2014, but also scanning through 15 years worth of projects and choosing my favorite from each year. You can read about them in the Magazine's feature article, Fifteen Years-Fifteen Objects.
Because we enjoy hearing from our readers and friends, I'm asking you to choose your favorite textile from 2014! All you have to do is visit our Website and click on the picture of the textile you want to vote for. You can read more right now about 5 of the textiles nominated for textile of the year in the MTS Blog. The remaining 3 blogs will be out later this fall, so stay tuned for those. Vote as many times as you want for as many textiles as you want. We'll reveal the winner on Monday, October 27th.
We recently completing the cleaning and rehousing of a German textile ledger book inscribed, "Leipzig 1855." It contains within page after page of stunning fiber samples--from raw cotton and flax, to satin and trim, to braided straw, coral beads, and even rubber--and plenty of text in High German script.
Here is what we know for certain. This Muster-Karte, or "Pattern Card" was rebound in the 20th century. Together with the heavy patterns of use, this suggests the book was valuable to someone over a span of time. Despite sending photos of the writing to several German-speaking friends, no one has been able to decipher the handwriting enough to answer two basic questions: Who made the book and for what purpose?
To take a crack at decoding the Leipzig swatch book, look through the slideshow above. We'd love to hear from you if think you can add to this fascinating story!
I was recently contacted by journalist Carrie Hayward, host of the Disney Wedding Podcast and author of PassPorter's Disney Weddings & Honeymoons. Carrie was excited to interview me on how to care for your wedding gown without being scammed by gown preservation companies. Click here to listen to the Podcast, called How to Preserve Your Wedding Gown.
Where you store your gown is as important as how you store it. Never keep your gown on a hanger or in a garment bag. If you want to preserve your gown for future generations, it needs to be placed in an archival box after it is cleaned. The box should be kept in the part of the house where you are comfortable living—not the basement or attic. It should be in an area where the temperature and relative humidity are stable without the highs and lows that encourage dimensional change and pest activity. A spare closet, or even under a bed, are both good places. Inspect your archival storage box every year for signs of pest activity or mildew—late spring and late summer are good times. If you notice any change in the appearance of your wedding gown, consult a textile conservator.
For these and all MTS Handouts and Slideshows, visit the Resources section of our website and follow the link for Individuals.
Camille Myers Breeze returns to the Campbell Center for Historic Preservation Studies on September 22-24 to teach Textile Stabilization Using Sheer Overlays. Camille has been an instructor for the Campbell Center since 2012.
For more information about this workshop, please contact Camille Myers Breeze. Read about the other educational opportunities with Museum Textile Services in the Outreach section of our web page.
By Camille Myers Breeze
Museum Textile Services and the Buttonwoods Museum will host a Sampler Study Day at the 240 Water St, Haverhill, MA, on Saturday, August 2, 2014 from 10-12. To reserve a space please call the Buttonwoods Museum at 978-374-4626 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Drop-ins are welcome and will be accommodated as time permits on a first come, first served basis.
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 Buttonwoods Museum on Sampler Study Day for a professional evaluation. The fee to participate in this program is $30 per sampler.
Camille Breeze will evaluate the condition of each sampler brought to the event and provide participants with a one-page conservation worksheet with a cost estimate for conservation. She will also discuss potential conservation issues and make recommendations for the appropriate mounting and framing of these heirlooms. Buttonwoods Museum staff 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.
Museum Textile Services staff 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.
One of the most exciting projects of 2014 was concluded early in July with the reinstallation of the 13-star ensign flag belonging to the town of Dennis, Massachusetts. Completed in a mere 4 months, this conservation treatment was an exercise in collaboration--and often patience--resulting in a strikingly dramatic historic flag returning to its home town.
The flag was deinstalled on March 7th, 2014, by MTS colleague Barrett M Keating, a renowned furniture conservator from N. Falmouth, Massachusetts. Barrett also helped us four years ago with the installation of the Tricentennial Quilt at the Falmouth Public Library.
In order to accomplish the tricky mounting, framing and installation in just three days, we brought together a team consisting of current and former MTS staff and interns. In addition to Director Camille Breeze and Conservator Cara Jordan, intern Kate Herron, former intern Jen Nason and former technician Courtney Jason made the trip down to the Cape. Although the three long days were extremely hot and humid inside the auditorium, and there were many sore fingers and backs, it was great to spend time together and we made the best of our evenings on lovely Cape Cod.