Being a textile conservator is an exciting and rewarding career, made even better by the awesome team I get to work with. We have had the great fortune to conserve objects from mummies to mittens, castle walls to Masonic dolls, and everything in between.
Thank you for all the patronage and friendship that have propelled Museum Textile Services these last 15 years. As always, you are encouraged to follow us on Facebook and to contact me with any questions using our web form.
Here's to 30 more years at MTS!
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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
The stunning new exhibit, The Shakers: From Mount Lebanon to the World, opened earlier this month at the Farnsworth Museum of Art in Rockland, ME. In preparation for the opening, Museum Textile Services Director and Chief Conservator Camille Myers Breeze spent three days on site conserving and mounting clothing and textiles.
What made this project so rewarding are the friendly colleagues at the Farnsworth art Museum, including Chief Curator Michael Komanecky, Preparator Leith Mac Donald, and Registrar Angela Waldron. Curator Michael Graham of the Sabbathday lake Shaker Village Library and Museum was also extremely generous in letting me make all of the decisions I thought were best for his collection. The historical information in this blog, as well as the period photographs, are taken from the extraordinary 272 full-color exhibit catalog, The Shakers: From Mount Lebanon to the World, published by Rizzoli.
The subject of this blog is a 19th-century French gendarme hat, which is a current project here at Museum Textile Services. As the project has unfolded we've discovered much to tell you about.
The hat bears a label inside that reads, "M. Ubadie Gendarm." Without knowing who he was, we have discovered a few things about Mr. Ubadie. For instance, the minor abrasion to the proper-right tip of the hat suggests M. Ubadie was right handed. We also found wool batting stuffed inside the hat band, presumably to make it fit better. This opens up the possibility that the hat was second hand.
Bicorn hats, or chapeaux bras, were de rigueur in the United States and Europe by the end of the 18th century and remained in use throughout the 20th century. This one is made of beaver pelt formed around a paper mold with the glazed black cotton sateen liner. There is a black leather sweat band (seen in the above image). The brim is trimmed with folded silver gimp. There is evidence of repairs to the crown as well as damage to the pelt, most likely from protein-eating insects.
We believe that the hat dates to the second half of the 19th century because it resembles other dated examples. The back flap is higher than the front on M. Ubadie's hat but not exaggeratedly so. It is quite symmetrical when seen from beneath, which distinguishes it from an 1872 model more with a triangular shape. It is not a 20th century model because it shares many characteristics with early and mid-19th-century hats with the exact same metal gimp and button. The slides below show other hats we found pictured on the internet.
M. Ubadie's hat has been deinfested and surface cleaned, and is ready to be returned to its owner. We learned many things about both the hat and the wearer, thanks to the the unique relationship between a conservator and an artifact.
By Josephine Johnson
With all of the press about the recent blockbuster movie The Monuments Men, directed, written, and produced by George Clooney and Grant Heslov, imagine our surprise when we learned that there is a hooked rug in the Museum Textile Services study collection made by a monuments man!
In 2012, Victoria Blair-Smith brought a beautiful green velvet dress belonging to her mother to be conserved at MTS. The blog about the project, called Portrait of a Lady, discusses the dress's owner, Carla Meeks, née Marie Caroline Silvester, and her husband Carroll L. V. Meeks (Yale class of 1928), who taught architectural history at Yale University. The hooked rug above was made for the couple, who married in 1934, by Yale colleague Theodore "Tubby" Sizer.
Thanks to documentation recently sent to us by Blair-Smith, we learned that Theodore Sizer was the first chief of operations for the Monuments Men in Germany in 1944. Back home, Sizer pursued rug hooking as therapy for the head injury he acquired during the war. Carol Meeks' love for trains is clear in this rug, and Sizer included much personal information, including birth and graduation dates, along with the year of the couple's betrothal. If you look closely in the above photo of Sizer, you can see an oval hooked rug of a fish with the date 1951 on it behind him.
That is not the only connection between Museum Textile Services and the Monuments Men. The inspiration for George Clooney's character Frank Stokes was a well-known art conservator from Harvard Art Museums, George Stout. Stout spent many years in Europe and Japan rescuing artwork jeopardized by the war. Back at home, Stout was one of the founding members of the American Institute of Conservation, our primary membership organization. Stout was also a major proponent of creating formalized training programs for art conservation.
By Camille Myers Breeze
This spring I am hard at work promoting the latest research project at Museum Textile Services on the Use of Sheer Overlays in Textile Conservation. Sheer overlays, such as nylon net, silk crepeline, and polyester Stabiltex, are used in textile conservation to protect an object and/or change the object’s appearance.
There are many benefits of conserving textiles with sheer overlays. They provide immediate stabilization across a large area with a minimum of stitching. Sheer overlays also provide preventative care, as they offer protection from loss if the textile continues to degrade. Most importantly for use at MTS, sheer overlays are easy to learn, and are among the first things I teach intern to do.
This topic is near and dear to my heart, as I have been teaching it at the Campbell Center for Historic Preservation Studies in Mount Carroll, IL, since 2012. It may also be familiar to you if you have visited the Resources section of the Museum Textile Services web page. There you will find several MTS handouts on the subject, including our newest, Hot Cutting & Applying Polyester Sheer Overlays.
Other MTS Handouts on this topic include Conservation Netting, about the use of sheer nylon net overlays. I created the Sheer Overlay Score Card to assist in choosing the best sheer overlay, and it is also online. There is even a List of Sheer Overlay Suppliers and a Sheer Overlay Bibliography.
At the end of May, 2014, I will present poster on Evaluating and Choosing Sheer Overlays in San Francisco at the 42nd Conference of the American Institute for Conservation.One of the purposes of this poster is to launch my online survey on use of sheer overlays in textile conservation, in which I will gather feedback from conservators and collections care specialists around the world. The survey data will then assist me in an upcoming publication I am writing on the subject.
Stay tuned for more on this topic, and don't forget to take the online survey!