By Camille Myers Breeze
Our 18-month-long project to conserve the Abraham Sacrificing Isaac tapestry culminated in its reinstallation last week at St. George's School in Middletown, Rhode Island.
With the help of school staff, the tapestry was easily installed in under 30 minutes. This left plenty of time for a trip to the archives, where a historic garment awaited assessment. Worn by the school's founder, Father John Hugh Diman,
this fur-lined wool overcoat is part of school legend. Father Diman would take the train from Providence to Newport, Rhode Island, every week year round, and wrote that he could not have made the walk to St. George's School in winter without his trusty fur coat. Inside the coat is a large breast pocket ample enough to accommodate a bible.
The St George's School archives also has a collection of sports memorabilia, including jerseys, football pants, sweaters, jackets, cleats, footballs, soccer balls, and baseballs. Painted on many of the balls are the dates of victories and the opponent's name. It turns out that the arch rival of St George's School is Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts. Just this year an Olympic hockey uniform belonging to Middlesex School was conserved at MTS.
At the end of the day, I gave a public presentation about the conservation of the Abraham Sacrificing Isaac tapestry. In attendance was Chad Loebs, the grandson of the tapestry's donor, and benefactor of the tapestry conservation project. Mr. Loebs descends from the Safe family, who owned the mansion where the tapestry hung, Ocean Lawn, until 1946.
Also among the crowd who came to celebrate the unveiling of the newly conserved tapestry was the son of the chapel's benefactor, also named John Nicholas Brown. The grand- daughter of Elizabeth Parke Firestone, wife of the Harvey Firestone, Jr. and owner of Ocean Lawn from the 1950's to 1990, also introduced herself to me. Evidence of the hard work of the development department can be seen throughout the furnishings, buildings, and landscape at St. George's School, as well as in the strong relationship between the school and its generous alumni.
You can also see more photos from this project on the Museum Textile Services Facebook page. While you're there, please "Like" us!
By Camille Myers Breeze
This week we introduce a new blog theme featuring before and after images and histories of textiles we are treating. Let us know what you think!
In one of the earliest MTS Blogs, Sarah Berlinger introduced readers to the Olympic uniform of hockey player Gordon Smith. Mr. Smith is an alumnus of Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts, who are the owners of his prestigious garments. In the midst of the 2012 London Summer Olympics, we thought we'd show you the results of the conservation treatment.
Some highlights of this treatment include dying wool roving a matching shade of ecru and needle punching it to a cotton substrate. These patches were placed behind areas of loss and lightly needle punched to the coat to integrate. Although visually continuous, these patches can be removed in the future if necessary.
All of our display mounts were made of archival Ethafoam and polyester padding with a tan cotton/poly jersey as the show fabric.The deteriorated silk bow was removed from the hat and returned to the owner. A new bow was made from polyester ribbon (the cut edges were painted with archival adhesive to prevent unraveling.) One missing button was replaced with a similar button painted to match.
This project took a year to complete and was returned to Middlesex School in time to be displayed at the start of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. You can learn more about conservation of sports memorabilia in the conservation section of the web site.
Many thanks to Middlesex School, Historic New England and the entire MTS conservation team, especially Sarah Berlinger, Cara Jordan, and Courtney Jason.