Summer 2015 saw Museum Textile Services conservator Cara Jordan dedicating most of her time to conserving nine Masonic aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum in nearby Lexington, MA. More recently, Camille Myers Breeze spent a snowy February day in the museum's work room prepping an additional twenty-four aprons for the upcoming exhibit “The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Collection,” opening on March 19, 2016. The Scottish Rite Museum, formerly the National Heritage Museum, is one of our longest-standing partnerships, spanning sixteen years and over 100 textiles conserved.
The condition of the aprons treated by Museum Textile Services varied from poor to good, but all of them had reasonable display potential. Many were creased from storage and their ties were knotted, twisted, and torn. Twenty-four aprons needed only contact humidification or pressing, which was done on-site at the Scottish Rite Museum. Nine aprons were conserved at the MTS studio due to their extensive conservation needs. First, Cara Jordan humidified each in a Gore-Tex chamber, which helped to deacidify and rehydrate the fibers, release some of the creasing. Leather aprons were blocked with weights and magnets, while silk and cotton aprons could withstand a light pressing through muslin to release more stubborn creases.
Apron ties posed additional challenges to conservators. Some silk ribbon had become highly deteriorated where formerly tied, requiring an adhesive lining to prevent them from crumbling. Where possible, Cara and Camille carefully untied and ironed the ties flat before backing them in key areas with thin silk crepeline coated in BEVA archival adhesive film. The crepeline backing will help to prevent further loss of silk and allow the aprons to be safely displayed and studied.
We are excited to see the aprons on display in “The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Collection,” at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library.