by Cara Jordan
This is a follow up to one of the items we discussed in our October 7, 2013 blog, Mold Before & After.
A plastic suitcase filled with uniforms belonging to WWII Marine Veteran John E. Holland, Jr. arrived at Museum Textile Services in spring, 2013. The owners were distraught that the suitcase had inadvertantly been stored in a damp basement, leading to the dramatic condition of the items inside.
Holland's three-piece baseball uniform was vacuumed, fumigated in a chlorine dioxide chamber, and wetcleaned to clean it and kill the mold spores. The jersey and pants are made of grayish wool with red piping along the sleeves, neck, and front closure. All that remains of the team name is a single “I” in the center of the closure, along with a coordinating red button. The owners believed that Holland had played minor league baseball for a New York affiliated team. A quick search on www.baseball-reference.com for New York affiliate teams with the letter “I” in the name was inconclusive.
I noticed that quite a few fragments of red fabric and thread remained on the front of the jersey where the lettering had once been. So I put the jersey on a light table to see if any of the machined stitch holes that once attached the letters remained, but we were thwarted. Next I printed some digital photographs and highlighted the red remnants on the image. When I "connected the dots,” I was able to make out an “E” and “R.” The other letters were less forth-coming and the team name remained a mystery. I put the images aside for a few days later we took another go at it. Soon I was able to decipher a possible “A” and “N,” giving me "_ A? R I N? E _." Then it dawned on me: this wasn’t a minor league jersey at all! It was a MARINES baseball jersey.
According to Wikipedia, US Armed Forces baseball dates back as far as the Civil War. More recently, military baseball was used as a recruiting tool to attract personnel and improve morale among the troups. Military baseball was at it’s apex during John Holland Jr.’s time, with big leaguers like Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio playing on service teams. I suspect that Holland played ball for the Marines team during his time with them in WWII and then reused the jersey after his discharge.The mystery of the moldy jersey had been solved!
Although mold isn't a conservator's favorite thing to deal with, this project has been rewarding on many levels.
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
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.
By Sarah Berlinger
Being the sports enthusiasts that we are, MTS was delighted to recently receive a collection of baseball memorabilia from the Museum of African American History in Boston.
The twenty items, including shoes, socks, rosin bags, and a uniform, all belonged to Will "Cannonball” Jackman. A professional pitcher for over 25 years, he has been called “the best baseball player you’ve never heard of.”
Throughout Jackman’s career, he played in Texas, Oklahoma, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts. He came to play for the Boston Colored Giants in 1924, and proved his dominance in the Greater Boston Colored League. Jackman played baseball into his sixties; a truly amazing feat. According to Negro League superstar Bill Yancey, later a Yankees scout, Jackman was the greatest all-around ballplayer he ever saw.
The Jackman collection arrived at MTS for assessment to determine the feasibility of display in the upcoming MAAH exhibit, The Color of Baseball in Boston. The first course of action was to send the items to be treated in the anoxic fumigation chamber at Historic New England. Some items, Such as Cannonball's cap, showed damage from past insect activity.
After fumigation, the collection was surface-cleaned with a HEPA vacuum to remove particulate matter. All but four of the clothing items will be washed gently to reduce deterioration products without removing signs of past use.
The shoes have been reinforced for pitching. Photo courtesy of Museum of African American History, Boston and Nantucket, MA, USA.
Stitched repairs will be kept to a minimum but crucial restorations will be undertaken to camouflage insect damage. A custom-built Ethafoam mannequin will then be constructed
to allow the uniform to be exhibited.
Jackman chose to make Massachusetts his home because of how well he was treated here, and he stayed in the area until his death in 1972. While playing, he also held a job as chauffeur. He drove during the day, pitched nights and weekends, and then kept his chauffering job after retiring from the sport.
We’re very excited to have a role in the preservation of artifacts belonging to such an important member of Boston sports history.