Helping us throughout the project was OSV Collections Manager and Curator of Textiles Rebecca Beall, who along with her colleagues is tasked with preparing the upcoming 2018 costume exhibition. We met Rebecca in 2013 when she brought a number of garments to Museum Textile Services for conservation in advance of the exhibit Delightfully Designed: The Furniture and Life of Nathan Lumbard. The narrow passages between the hanging textile cabinets were just large enough for a rolling cart that held a laptop into which Morgan entered her and Camille's observations. The well-cataloged collection of dresses is arranged by decade, allowing us to travel forward in time as we worked from the late 1700s to just after 1850. This type of hands-on examination provides a rare opportunity to learn from the objects in ways that mere book reading cannot.
Among the 352 items assessed were bodices, dresses, capes, cloaks, coats, dressing gowns, frock coats, jackets, pelisses, petticoats, shirts, smocks, spencers, tailcoats, vests, and one uniform jacket. Over 50% of the items are in excellent condition and require no conservation prior to exhibition. Of the remaining garments, fewer than 10% require substantial conservation for their ongoing preservation. The conservation recommendations included stitched repairs to holes or tears, stabilizing linings or hems with sheer overlays, and steaming or surface cleaning prior to exhibition. Overall, the collection is extremely well preserved and has been acquired and cared for to the highest standards by several generations of museum colleagues.
If your institution needs a collections survey like this NEH funded project with Old Sturbridge Village, please contact MTS Director Camille Myers Breeze.