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.
In order to become a member of the Folly Cove Designers, the candidate was required to complete one of Demetrios’ courses and to submit a design for approval by a jury composed of senior members. The designer would submit a sample on ink-coated cardboard. After getting approval from the jury, the artist would carve their design into a sheet of linoleum that was mounted on a piece of plywood. The artist would then coat the printing block with ink, place the block ink side down onto a piece of fabric, and then stamp on the block with their feet. The Folly Cove Designers did not switch to a manual press—the signature acorn press—until 1943. Anthony Iarrobino, a friend of Museum Textile Services, donated the acorn press on view at the Cape Ann Museum.
We are enthusiastic to begin cleaning and mounting these Folly Cove textiles. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on their treatment.
Museum Textile Services recently conserved an early 20th-century Brooks Brothers three-piece suit. It is a family heirloom of Edward Phillips-Jones, who continues to wear it on special occasions despite some thinning and small tears. Edward, a scholar and farmer in western Massachusetts, inherited the suit from his uncle Owen Jones, who was given it by Edward's great grandfather, James Morison Faulkner. Other than being a bit short in the leg, the suit fits Edward perfectly.
After conservation dry cleaning, we stabilized several holes on the jacket and pants with hand stitching and cotton fabric underlays. Conservator Morgan Carbone rewove thinning areas in the arms, legs, and seat with matching wool yarns. These repairs, along with light use and continued care, will assure that Mr. Phillips-Jones can pass his sack suit on to the next generation.
This is the third in our series of MTS Blogs about samplers we have conserved from the New Hampshire Historical Society. Sarah’s sampler is a simple upper and lowercase alphabet stitched with silk thread on a piece of undyed linen. She stitched only the numerals 1 through 4 but spent quite a bit of time perfecting the decorative floral border--perhaps nine- or ten-year-old Sarah adored flowers more than numbers. According to the NHHS digital catalog, Sarah Folsom Cochran lived from 1811 and 1844 in Pembroke and Epson, New Hampshire. Although she did not record the date she made her sampler, she did include her exact birthday as August 26th, 1811. So happy 204th birthday anniversary Sarah! (August 26th also happens to be Director Camille Myers Breeze's birthday, though she's a bit younger.)
In the early 19th century, all the dyes used to color Sarah’s bright silks would have been made from natural substances like madder for pinks and reds, and indigo or woad for blues. Many natural dyes, and the natural fibers of silk and linen, slowly degrade over time, losing their intensity and saturation as a result of things like light and heat. However Sarah's sampler is almost the same color on the front as on the back, indicating that it has been well cared for.
We know that Sarah's sampler was once framed because it came to Museum Textile Services glued onto an acidic board. Moisture in the top-left corner had caused soil and discoloration to migrate, but fortunately not the dyes. Prior to cleaning, Conservator Cara Jordan removed as much of the cardboard and adhesive residue from the reverse with mechanical action. Director Camille Breeze then used the suction table to flush deionized water through the sampler and control any potential dye bleeding. The first blotters showed a great deal of discoloration coming out of the sampler, which was exhausted after several rinses. The sampler was allowed to fully dry on the suction table beneath a piece of blotter. It was then hand stitched to a fabric-covered mounting board for display at the New Hampshire Historical Society.
Sarah’s gift to history was her sampler, and Museum Textile Services is pleased to restore some of the light and delicacy back to her work. If you are concerned about your own historic textile being damaged due to light exposure, pests, or acidity, take a look at the our MTS Handouts on Choosing Storage Materials and Displaying Textiles, located on our website.
Nine-year-old Junia Bartlett stitched this sampler of the alphabet in large bold letters around 1819. She chose pinks and blues to start her alphabet but over the years her brilliant pinks have faded to pale beige, and the blues and greens have lost some of their lustrous vibrancy. Luckily conservation allows us to peek at the back of the sampler to see the silky pink, sea-foam green, and Prussian blue she chose for her composition. Junia’s stitching techniques include the common satin stitch in blue, and a less common open work Alsatian stitch in pink. The sampler was gift in 2012 to the New Hampshire Historical Society by Gift of Klaudia S. Shepard.
Junia’s famous grandfather, Josiah Bartlett, was the 4th Governor of New Hampshire and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The family’s wealth and status afforded Junia opportunities to learn and write, and she went on to become the wife of Maine US Representative, Francis O.J. Smith. Junia’s correspondence with her brother Levi Bartlett is part of the Maine Historical Society collections, and--most unusually--she was given author credit alongside her husband on many legal and political documents in the Library of Congress catalog.
It is easy to imagine Junia sitting in the parlor, or on the front porch, stitching away at her sampler, with no idea her writings and work would be saved for almost 200 years and counting. Junia’s sampler is just one of the many pieces of her legacy that museums, libraries, historical societies and conservation specialists are working to preserve.
Museum Textile Services conservator Cara Jordan humidified Junia Bartlett's sampler to deacidify it and allow it to be safely blocked to square using pins. She then hand stitched the sampler to a fabric-covered, archival support to allow it to be safely displayed by the New Hampshire Historical Society.
Museum Textile Services has been conserving a selection of samplers from the New Hampshire Historical Society over the last few years. Each one of these beauties will be featured on the blog. First up is Bridget Walker’s 1795 sampler, so let’s dive in!
Bridget, as she proudly states in her work, was 12 when this sampler was finished in 1795. Young Miss Walker was growing up as one of the first generation of Americans born after the revolution in her town of Concord New Hampshire. In 1795 Concord was a bustling town, about to be named New Hampshire’s state capital. With industry, wealth and success in a city, education for children usually follows, and this sampler is a testament to educational values of the time.
We can see Bridget’s eye for color and form along with her alphabet, numbers, and a well-known sampler rhyme. The rhyme is slightly different in the groundbreaking 1921 compilation American Samplers by Ethel Stanwood Bolton and Eva Johnston Coe. As you can see from this excerpt, Bridget chose to alter the full rhyme to suit her taste and ideas of correct spelling in 1795 Concord.
Bridget’s fine sampler was stitched carefully on natural linen in silk thread, and then carefully saved through the generations. As you can see from the wrinkles and fading before conservation, it was in need of some skilled care. Museum Textile Services conservator Cara Jordan surface cleaned, humidified, and blocked the sampler before stitching it by hand to a fabric-covered archival board for storage and display. These conservation measures will improve the visual qualities for viewers and aid in the preservation of this beautiful sampler for generations to come.
Check out more details on Bridget and her sampler at the New Hampshire Historical Society.
Cataloging and documenting the objects, clothing, and personal effects in the military collection of Max W. Krell feels a bit like getting to know the man himself, which is a pleasure for everyone at MTS. Born on September 13th, 1922, Krell rose to the rank of 1st Lieutenant before the end of World War II. He and his wife Phyllis J. Krell raised a family in Kingsport, TN. Following Phyllis' death, he spent his final years in Charlevoix, MI.
1st Lieutenant Krell's collection consists of thirteen uniform pieces and a metal box containing dozens of items belonging to Max and his wife. These include numerous military pins and rank badges, an emergency signaling mirror and time-distance computer, Dutch biscuit tins, and more personal items including a pocket watch, a lady’s watch and a man’s gold ring. The items Krell chose to save give us a personalized history of one man's military service and participation in the amazing events of 'Operation Manna,' also known as the 'Chowhound Mission' during the war.
While Max Krell's collection of clothing and personal effects shows the diligence and orderliness that military men and women are often famous for, MTS is eager to improve the condition and storage of these items up to conservation levels. By doing so we will help preserve them so the coming generations can enjoy getting to know Max Krell and his military and humanitarian efforts in World War II.
This blog concludes our four-part series on the Solon A Perkins flag, cared for by the Greater Lowell Veteran's Council, here in Massachusetts. It took nearly 18 months for the Vets to administer this complicated project, including hiring Museum Textile Services to conserve the flag and MasterWorks Conservation to conserve the frame. The flag will be rededicated on May 31, 2015, in a public ceremony at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium.
A solid-support panel was manufactured by Small Corp. Inc. to fit perfectly into the flag's inner frame. We covered the panel with padding and fabric before laying out the red and white polyester organza
underlays. Camille then placed the striped section of the flag on top of this ghost image and hand stitched them both to the fabric-covered panel. Next, she transferred the canton, already stitched to its blue organza underlay, onto the panel and stitched it into place. The final step prior to framing was to tediously straighten all of the shattered silk and slowly cover the entire flag with silk Crepeline. Camille hand stitched around the perimeter of flag and beneath each white stripe to hold the tattered flag in place and to prevent any fragments from slipping down. This sheer overlay is invisible from even a short distance and provides a extra barrier between the flag and the acrylic above.
The pressure mount was created by placing a sheet of UV-filtering acrylic over the mounted flag and screwing it down into the top of the panel. Because the rabbet of the green inner frame does not fully cover these mounting screws, we used an archival linen-covered mat between the underside of the frame and the top of the acrylic to mask the holes. Although the reinstalled flag looks as if it is a single framing system, this is an illusion; the flag panel, followed by the frames, were installed separately into the marble wall of the Lowell Memorial Auditorium and won't be going anywhere for a long time.
Museum Textile Services would like to thank the members of the Greater Lowell Veteran's Council, especially John Mitchell, Bob Casper, and Thayer Eastman; Grant Welker, staff reporter from the Lowell Sun; and Larry Glickman of Traveling Framers. To contribute to the ongoing fundraising efforts for this project, please visit the Lt. Perkins Flag Restoration GoFundMe page.