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.
By Camille Myers Breeze
On the morning of April 7, 2014, Museum Textile Services staff met on the steps of the Boston Public Library before joining the crowds of visitors and press in attendance for the opening of the exhibit, "Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial." During the previous month, we conserved 19 textiles left at the temporary memorial site in Copley Square following the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15th, 2013.
The press conference began with a speech by Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, who was followed by Massachusetts State Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey. All three spoke about what it was like in Boston immediately following the Marathon bombings, and the great job the first responders did in the ensuing days. New England Museum Association Executive Director Dan Yeager, then came on stage and aptly concluded the press conference by thanking those who had contributed funds and services to the exhibit, including our colleagues Will Twombley of Spokeshave Design, Adam Osgood of Historic New England, Independent Curator Rainey Tisdale, and Independent exhibition curator Anne Starr.
As we strolled through the exhibit, it was important to remember that this was not your average art opening. Eye witnesses and people who had been injured by the two terrorist bombs strained to see inside the display cases where notes and signs were displayed along side many textile items, such as shirts, baseball caps, and teddy bears. At the center of the room was the exhibit's main feature, a square platform with hundreds of pairs of running shoes stacked in rows, signifying how the running community and the general public had come together following the bombing in support of a city, a community, and our historic Marathon.
In the spirit of the impromptu memorial at which these display items were originally displayed, visitors were invited to leave messages on paper tags and tie them to one of the three trees along one wall of the exhibit hall. This was a powerful way to evoke the outdoor feel of the marathon memorial and allow those of us who didn't make it to Boston in the weeks following the bombings to finally take a moment to say what we were feeling.
"Dear Boston" is joint effort of the Boston City Archives, Boston Art Commission,New England Museum Association, and Boston Public Library. Generous funding was provided by Iron Mountain. For more events marking the first anniversary of the Boston marathon bombings, visit #BostonBetter.
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
Burlington, Vermont, was the scene of the 2012 New England Museum Association conference, where five MTS staff members, and many former staff, gathered last week.
In the very first session time slot, Camille and Cara joined other conservators in presenting "Condition Reporting Meets Speed Dating." For 90 minutes, attendees traveled from table to table spending 10 minutes learning about condition reporting different artifact types. Our presentation on Condition Reporting Textiles, is available as a short slide show in the Resources section of our web site.
With our speaking responsibilities out of the way early, we relaxed and took in several sessions on topics as diverse as working with university museums, crafting a collections management policy, and social media marketing (we're way ahead of the curve on that one thanks to Erica Holthausen and Honest Marketing Revolution!)
There was plenty of time to sit back and enjoy the local museums, restaurants and breweries. ECHO Lake Aquarium was the sight of the opening reception, where we petted star fish and chatted with colleagues. Our newest hire, Operations Manager Andy Grilz, proved to be a huge asset in the trivia game! The following day, Camille and Cara visited Shelburne Farms a 1,400-acre working farm and nonprofit education organization. We learned they also have an inn and restaurant, which is just the excuse we need to return to Burlington in the near future.
The most entertaining session we attended was probably "Cats & Dogs Living Together: Exhibit Design as a Collaboration between Educators & Curators," presented by Curator Jeffrey Forgang and Education Director Devon Kurtz of the Higgins Armory Museum. Suffice to say we we're considering a holiday field trip to see their interactive exhibit, Extreme Sports: The Joust.
If you weren't fortunate enough to attend the NEMA conference, you can still access the handouts by downloading the NEMA Conference App from the NEMA website. We hope to see you at the 2013 NEMA conference in Newport, Rhode Island!