By Camille Myers Breeze
When I was approached in May of 2013 to participate in a voluntary effort to preserve artifacts left at the temporary memorial site in Copley Square following the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15th, I said yes without hesitation. Dan Yeager, Executive Director of the New England Museum Association, facilitated communication among regional museum professionals.
The Archives and Records Management Division of the City of Boston Office of the City Clerk oversaw the dismantling and preservation preservation effort for the memorial artifacts. First City Archives staff and volunteer from across the museum spectrum documented and packed artifacts into donated boxes. The boxes were loaded into trucks donated by Polygon Corporation and transported to Polygon's facility in Georgetown, MA, where they were air dried with a dessicant. Next they were fumigated by Historic New England in their anoxic fumigation bubble to eliminate the possibility of insect, mold, and bacterial activity. After fumigation, the artifacts were transported to the Boston City Archives in West Roxbury where staff accessioned the material into the collection and stored in their climate-controlled facility.
Our colleague Rainey Tisdale soon took over curatorial responsibilities for the exhibit, "Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial," which will be at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square on April 7 through May 11. Memories of the minutes and days following the two explosions, three tragic deaths, and the subsequent manhunt for two suspects, are still vivid. The challenge for this exhibit will be to present the initial emotional response and tell the story of the attack in a way that also reflects hope and strength.
In early March, Museum Textile Services technician Josephine Johnson retrieved a box from City Archives volunteers containing nineteen artifacts from the temporary marathon bombing memorial. Inside the box are hats, shirts, baby onesies, and even a Starbucks apron inscribed with messages and memories of the often-anonymous donors. Over the next three weeks, Josephine and visiting conservation assistant Lisa Yeats, photographed, surface cleaned, humidified, and gently straightened out these artifacts so that they can now be safely preserved and exhibited without their condition detracting from the message they are sending.
Over the next few months, numerous memorial efforts will take place across the Boston area to commemorate the events of the marathon bombings and to help continue the healing. For more information, visit BostonBetter.
By Camille Myers Breeze
The response to our last blog, Battling Mold Outbreaks, was so good that we decided to show you more dramatic images of mold before and after conservation.
If you recall, the collection of John E. Holland Jr's WWII-era Military and baseball uniforms was stored in a plastic suitcase and had been exposed to moisture for a prolongued period of time. Consequently, a wide variety of mold species of different colors and textures had fluorished within the confined space.
The cotton items fared worse than the wool. The acidic conditions caused more rips and general deterioration in the naturally basic cotton. Stains, like those remaining on this hat, remained even after fumigation, vcuuming, and wetcleaning.
The baseball uniformhad both wool flannel and cotton catcher's pads. After fumigation and vacuuming, the wool uniform was conservation drycleaned, which greatly improved its appearance. We are now challenged with trying to decifer what team name was once stitched to the front of the jersey (it was not uncommon for the minor leagues to recycle older uniforms.) Only the "I" was left on the button placket, which is clearly visible in the above photo.
The catcher's pads were fumigated and vacuumed prior to wetcleaning. When dry, the pads were sandwiched in off-white nylon net to allow them to be safely handled without losing stuffing out of the many small holes caused by acidic degradation.
Arguably the most important single piece in the collection was Staff Sargeant Holland's dress uniform jacket in which he is pictured in his WWII photograph. Parts of the jacket, such as the badges on his left sleeve, were in pristine condition apart from the mold. Other areas, including the buttons and collar studs, had suffered moisture damage as well.
After fumigation, vacuuming, and conservation drycleaning, the jacket once again reflects the bravery and dignity of a WWII US Marine. Some of the collar studs and other bars and insignia on the uniforms had to be removed prior to drycleaning, and are now in archival bags.
The twelve items once stored in the plastic suitcase are now rehoused in four archival storage boxes. The family of Staff Sergeant Holland can now expect these intimate reminders of their recently-deceased WWII Marine to live on for generations to come.
by Camille Myers Breeze
Our choice for favorite project from 2012 has to be the conservation of a baseball uniform belonging to the great Negro league player William "Cannonball" Jackman. As we learned from Sarah Berlinger's March 12th, 2012, blog Will "Cannonball" Jackman Comes to Life, he was perhaps the greatest player you've never heard of.
Prior to the completion of this project, Boston globe writer Joel Brown paid Museum Textile Services a visit to learn more about the project. His article, entitled "Preserving the Fabric of History," appeared in the April 19, 2012, issue of the Boston Globe North. Joel's article was a wonderful opportunity for us to let the public know about textile conservation and as a result we have seen a huge increase in the amount of sports memorabilia brought to MTS. In response, we launched a new Sports Memorabilia page in the Conservation section of our web page.
You can see some more images of the conservation of "Cannonball" Jackman's uniform in this short slideshow. Many thanks the Museum of African American History, Boston, and to all who worked on this project, including Cara, Courtney, Katey and Sarah.
By Sarah Berlinger
Being the sports enthusiasts that we are, MTS was delighted to recently receive a collection of baseball memorabilia from the Museum of African American History in Boston.
The twenty items, including shoes, socks, rosin bags, and a uniform, all belonged to Will "Cannonball” Jackman. A professional pitcher for over 25 years, he has been called “the best baseball player you’ve never heard of.”
Throughout Jackman’s career, he played in Texas, Oklahoma, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts. He came to play for the Boston Colored Giants in 1924, and proved his dominance in the Greater Boston Colored League. Jackman played baseball into his sixties; a truly amazing feat. According to Negro League superstar Bill Yancey, later a Yankees scout, Jackman was the greatest all-around ballplayer he ever saw.
The Jackman collection arrived at MTS for assessment to determine the feasibility of display in the upcoming MAAH exhibit, The Color of Baseball in Boston. The first course of action was to send the items to be treated in the anoxic fumigation chamber at Historic New England. Some items, Such as Cannonball's cap, showed damage from past insect activity.
After fumigation, the collection was surface-cleaned with a HEPA vacuum to remove particulate matter. All but four of the clothing items will be washed gently to reduce deterioration products without removing signs of past use.
The shoes have been reinforced for pitching. Photo courtesy of Museum of African American History, Boston and Nantucket, MA, USA.
Stitched repairs will be kept to a minimum but crucial restorations will be undertaken to camouflage insect damage. A custom-built Ethafoam mannequin will then be constructed
to allow the uniform to be exhibited.
Jackman chose to make Massachusetts his home because of how well he was treated here, and he stayed in the area until his death in 1972. While playing, he also held a job as chauffeur. He drove during the day, pitched nights and weekends, and then kept his chauffering job after retiring from the sport.
We’re very excited to have a role in the preservation of artifacts belonging to such an important member of Boston sports history.
By Cara Jordan
In a time before “A League of Their Own” there were the Boston Olympets. The Olympets, or “Pets” as they were known, were a professional women’s softball team who played ball inside the Boston Garden.
The Olympets were created by Boston Garden owner, Walter Brown, to draw crowds to the Garden during the summer “off season.” Starting in the late 1930’s until 1943 the Olympets did just that. As team member Mary Pratt recalls about playing ball inside Boston Garden, “They took the diamond and put it on a diagonal and they put a post down by first base and as a lefty you could quite readily hit into the stands, but that would only go for a single, but to hit it to left field was a long, long distance at the Garden.”
Olympets uniform top. MTS study collection.
The Olympets uniform consisted of red satin shorts, a white and blue uniform top with red, white, and blue lettering. The team name "Olympets" was spelled out across the front of the uniform top and the player’s number was positioned on the back. The letter “B” was also positioned on one of the sleeves. Players footwear consisted of leather laced sneakers. The team also had yellow satin jackets that they wore for away games. The jackets had blue ribbing at the waist and cuffs and the team nickname “PETS” was spelled out in blue lettering across the back.
Olympets away jacket. MTS study collection.
Many of the women from the Olympets went on to play in the AAGPBL, the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, formed in 1943. Some of the teams that became part of the AAGPBL, such as the Racine Belles and Rockford Peaches, were portrayed in the film “A League of Their Own.” Several of the women featured in this film got their start as Boston Olympets.
Camille Breeze was fortunate enough to obtain four pieces of an Olympets uniform to add to the MTS study collection. We are now in possession of an away jacket with the number 6, a pair of red shorts with the number 6, a pair of red shorts with no number, and a jersey with the number 14. According to the seller, Martha Stickney, the uniform belonged to Virginia MacCarthy of Wakefield, Massachusetts. A photograph of Virginia is known to exist. Martha, who graduated from Wakefield High School in 1981, had made some baseball history of her own by being the first girl to play on the boy's baseball team.
Hopefully, further research will shed light on who Virginia McCarthy was and when she played for the Boston Olympets.