All five current staff members from Museum Textile Services made the trip to Portland, Maine, last week for the 97 Annual Conference of the New England Museum Association. A mere 90 minutes north of our studio, the vibrant and historical city of Portland is a favorite summer destination with great restaurants, bustling street life, and many cultural institutions. The unseasonably warm November weather was an added bonus that made our excursions and dinner treks even more memorable.
The following day, Camille and Kate presented their talk Articulating Bodies: Developing and Disseminating New Tools for Historic Costume Display in Small Museums to a standing-room-only crowd. Also participating in the presentation was author and museum archivist Jennifer Emerson, who Camille met while working at the Denison Homestead in Mystic, CT. Jennifer began the meeting in street clothes and allowed her silhouette to be traced onto a board. Later, she returned dressed in a replica 1814 outfit and her silhouette was again traced.
As attendees learned about the importance of proper costume display in museums, they began to understand how drastically the human figure is manipulated over time. Jennifer's final appearance was in a replica 1876 ensemble complete with bustle and bonnet. The final tracing made clear that understanding the historical silhouette takes some research but results in much more authentic--and safer--costume display.
November 1, 2015, marks the official launch of Andover Figures, a new costume-mounting system developed by Museum Textile Services Director Camille Myers breeze and KHG Arts Founder and Principal Katrina Herron Gendreau.
In developing the Andover Figures system, our aim has been to meet these concerns as well as to provide accessible training and resources that allow everyone to effectively and more easily care for and share these engaging and unique objects. Our manikins and suspension forms fit juvenile, women’s, and men’s garments. They can be customized for any historical silhouette with easy-to-find, museum-quality materials. You can reuse Andover Figures again and again, making the already-low price an even better investment.
Visit us at the 2016 NEMA Conference in Portland, ME! Our products will be on display at the University Products booth in the exhibit hall. Kate and Camille will also be presenting a talk entitled, "Articulating Bodies: Developing and Disseminating New Tools for Historic Costume Display in Small Museums" at 3:15 on Thursday, November 5th.
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.
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 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.