By Courtney Jason
On December 10, 2012, a shipment of 20 flags arrived at the MTS from Fort Knox, KY. These flags have a particularly interesting history, as many hail from the personal collection of General George Patton. They belong to the General George Patton Museum of Leadership, which is undergoing a major renovation and reinterpretation.
The Ft. Knox flags range from a 11.5" x 17" Confederate Calvary guide on to an 80" x 130" Nazi flag. The collection also includes several WWII Army flags, and a North Vietnamese flag that was recovered from a booby-trapped location. The collection is here to be cleaned, stabilized and mounted for display when the Patton Museum reopens later this year.
So far we have vacuumed the flags with a HEPA filtering vacuum to remove any particulate matter. Next we will humidify those with planar distortions using the Gore-Tex system described in a previous blog about the Orra White Hitchcock textiles from Amherst College.
The majority of the flags will be mounted on aluminum solid-support panels manufactured for us by Small Corp, Inc in Greenfield, MA. Each panel will have a layer of 1/4-inch Polyfelt from University Products in Holyoke, MA, covered with khaki-colored cotton poplin from Phillips-Boyne in Farmingdale, NY.
All of the flags except for the Nazi flag will be pressure mounted on a solid-support panel. They will be centered on the panel and hand stitched to the cotton using a curved needle. Only minimal stitching around the perimeter, along several strategic points in the body, and along the fringe, is required.
A sheet of UV-filtering acrylic will provide the rest of the support for the mount. The museum has chosen Small Corp's powder-coated aluminum frames to complete the mount system. The first batch of eight flags will undergo this process through mid to late April, before being shipped back in early May by US Art of Randolph, MA.
The Nazi flag will receive a different treatment due to its large size. A future blog will highlight this highly-technical process. We hope you're looking forward to seeing more of these flags as much as we're looking forward to working on them.
by Courtney Jason
When this WWI Army jacket came to Museum Textile Services, we did not know too much about it. According to the client, it had belonged to their grandfather, who was an Irish immigrant who enlisted to escape the orphanage he was living in. Beyond that, the rest was unclear. In the intervening weeks, much has come to light about Alexander G. McLean, his uniform, and his service in the Great War for Civilization.
McLean's WWI jacket before conservation.
McLean's army jacket is a 1917 pattern jacket, which is distin- guishable from the earlier 1912 pattern by a single line of stitching around the sleeve cuffs. Details like this can be found on the US Army's website in an extensive PDF by David Cole.
Recently the client returned with more items belonging to their grandfather. The buttons, pins, business cards, and books have inspired us to begin our research anew, and while we still do not know a lot about the life of Alexander McLean, we are developing a more complete picture. We know he joined the Army with the Yankee Division, and that he likely spent the majority of his time abroad fighting in France.
The first step of the project is to mount the jacket for display. It has been carefully vacuumed and an archival support pillow has been constructed. Next it will be mount it to a fabric-covered solid-support panel and covered with a UV filtering acrylic shadow box. When the jacket is complete, additional shadow boxes will be constructed for the other items.
While there are still a lot of unanswered questions, we are looking forward to learning more about the life of Alexander McLean. Be sure to check our Facebook page for updates as we continue to work on this project.
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 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.
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.
For more information about this important subject, read the entire Displaying Textiles Handout, which is available with all of our free handouts in the resources section of the MTS website.
by Camille Myers Breeze
For nearly a week, the Beard & Weil Galleries at Wheaton College in Norton, MA, was the scene of great collaboration and ingenuity as students of ARTH 335 Exhibition Design installed their Fall 2012 show, "100 Years 100 Objects." The exhibit showcases an object for each of the 100 years since Wheaton Female Seminary became Wheaton College.
Camille Breeze was hired to participate in two days of teaching and exhibit prep thanks to funding from the Art/Art History Department and the Evelyn Danzig Haas '39 Visiting Artist Program. After a short presentation about careers in conservation, Camille broke students into teams according to what remained to be done to install a pair of priceless textiles conserved by MTS.
The first team underwent the final framing of a silk embroidery depicting "Hagar and Ishmael are Cast Out by Abraham" (Genesis Chapter XXI), by Eliza Wheaton Strong (1795-1834). This exquisite textile is very fragile but together the team cleaned the framing materials, placed the embroidery behind the custom mat, and backed the new frame with Marvelseal before hanging it in the gallery.
The remaining student teams addressed tasks related to the mounting of the c 1780 costume of the Duchesse de Choiseul, which had been conserved at Museum Textile Services in 2012. You can read about this project in intern Gabrielle Ferreira's first and second blogs.
Josephine Johnson '13.
The bust of the custom manikin was covered with show fabric by senior Josephine Johnson, who is planning for a career in conservation. The base for the manikin was assembled by a team including senior Morgan Bakerman, who is writing her thesis about the dress.
A third team addresses the skirt support, which originally was accomplished with rigid paniers. Students started with a replica of the skirt made by Cara Jordan from cotton muslin. Next, they machine sewed 3-inch twill tape in two rows across the skirt and threaded flexible polypropylene tubing through the channel. The tubing provided the shape of the paniers, and additional pieces of twill tape tied across the underside created the correct, flat silhouette.
During the final push on Saturday afternoon, the base was attached to the exhibit platform, the manikin bust was installed, the paniers were tied to the manikin, and finally the costume was dressed.
Working with an academic institution like Wheaton College is one our favorite jobs at Museum Textile Services. Many thanks go out to Leah Niederstadt, Museum Studies Professor and Curator of the Permanent Collection, and Zeph Stickney, Archivist and Special Collections Curator, for asking Camille to help in this intense and rewarding project.
by Camille Myers Breeze
There are many times when conservators feel like we are doing the same thing over and over again. Fortunately, most of us like this repetition, or else we wouldn't be happy conservators. In 2012, the thing we have found ourselves doing again and again at Museum Textile Services is making mannequins.
Although there are wonderful suppliers of archival mannequins for the museum world, our clients sometimes require a custom form. Other times, we can save a client money by constructing their mannequin ourselves.
The MTS website has lots of resources for those of you who are in the position of making a mannequin or retrofitting a dress form for museum use. The first of these is Customizing Mannequins. It walks you through some of the considerations when using an existing form to make a safe mount for historic costume.
A more detailed set of instructions on using existing forms for safe costume display is Retrofitting Dress Forms. This handout also touches on the topic of which historic under-garments should never be used and what supplies you should have on hand when mounting a costume exhibit. In response to questions from clients who were using T-bars to display clothes, we created a handout about Building T-Bar Supports.
For the more experienced costume mounters, Museum Textile Services has a new handout available on our website entitled Making Ethafoam Disk Mannequins. This is meant to be used in conjunction with the Polly Willman mannequin-making system, which results in a series of measured disks that are stacked and fine tuned to form an archival dress form. Polly Willman's Ethafoam "Disk" Form instructions are also available, with her generous permission, for those who have not trained with her.
Before you attempt any of the mounting solutions presented in these handouts, please make sure that the items you are mounting are good candidates for exhibition. Consult a textile conservator prior to beginning if you have any questions.