by Katey Corrigan
Occasionally a project comes to us through a third party, such as an insurance company. Despite the anonymity, the fine crafting and personal significance of objects is often obvious. Earlier this year Museum Textile Services worked on a collection of Christmas Ornaments. The fifteen needlepoint ornaments had survived a families’ & craftspersons worst nightmare: a Christmas tree fire. A number of condition issues needed to be addressed so that these family treasures could be stabilized enough to be enjoyed again this Christmas.
The damage to the collection consisted of soot, water damage, mildew and/or mold activity, and dye bleed. Unfortunately, the ornaments cannot be washed, because testing showed that additional dye bleed would occur. Dye transfer is frequently irreversible, but may be prevented by choosing needlecraft materials with waterfast dyes.
In order to deactivate the microbial activity, the ornaments were fumigated with chlorine dioxide. The collection was then carefully surfaced cleaned using a HEPA vacuum with micro-suction attachment and vulcanized rubber sponges.
The difference in appearance of the “before and after” photos is subtle, but the treatments have stabilized the condition of the collection, preventing further damage because of microbial activity and other surface contamination. These treasured ornaments can now safely be displayed and enjoyed again.