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.