Tale of the Three Dresses

A wedding dress can serve as one of the most symbolic and treasured items of clothing in a woman’s closet. Throughout history, brides have long anticipated the occasion to wear exclusive fabrics and rich materials of a luminous color. Let’s be honest – wedding dress is designed to make every girl feel like a princess!

Specialist textile conservators at the Historic Royal Palaces recently completed a major project to conserve five iconic British royal wedding dresses. These wedding dresses are kept in carefully controlled storage conditions at Kensington Palace, enveloped in many layers of protective and supportive packaging materials. The silk satin wedding dress worn by Queen Victoria in 1840 is among one of the most popular dresses in the collection, as it set the trend of white wedding dresses for years to come. If you are seeking the royal treatment for your own special garment, we have some tips and products that will help you conserve your precious gown for years to come!

Unless you want to “trash” your wedding dress (for personal reasons), preserving it is much easier and more affordable than you think! Conserve your gown the way museum professionals do using all archival quality supplies from University Products.

What You Will Need:
• Clean gown. All additional pieces removed and stored separately.
Large textile box. Textile conservators prefer white poly box because it is lightweight yet sturdy, and won’t snag the fragile fabric.
White cotton gloves. Always wear gloves to handle something that can deteriorate from contact with human secretions (yes, even tiny amounts of natural oil that can hide in your fingers. Overtime the invisible “fingerprints” can turn into ugly stains and destroy delicate fabrics.
Unbuffered acid-free tissue paper. Put down a few layers on the bottom of the box, lower the dress, folding it in as few places as possible and place rolls of loosely crumpled tissue paper within the folds. Stuff the sleeves and the area between shoulders with similar “rolls” of tissue paper. Your dress will hold shape and won’t wrinkle from long term storage. Put some more tissue in the corners so the dress won’t move even if the box is being transported. Cover everything on top with a few more loose layers of tissue.
• Add a packet of Silica Gel Desiccant for some internal moisture control.
It is best to store the dress in the conditions that are comfortable for a human! No musty and cold basements or dry and hot attics. Drastic changes in humidity and/or temperature are very very bad for your dress. And our goal is to make it last as long as possible, right?

What NOT to do:
• Don’t try to preserve a dress that is dirty, soiled with sweat, dirt or food.
• Don’t encapsulate the dress in air-less container. Vacuum is not good for the fabric, it will start to deteriorate.
• Do not use boxes with clear windows. They might be pretty, but light will discolor part of the dress that is showing through and it will become different from the rest of the garment.
• Keep away from dust and mold.
• No basements and attics, high humidity or dryness, extreme heat or cold.

What You Should Do:
• Have the gown looked at by a textile preservation specialist or at least professionally dry-cleaned.
• All little rips/snags should be mended, loose threads tied up and hidden. All additional decorations (especially those with metal base) removed and stored separately.
• Obtain a large, acid-free textile box that will easily fit the dress and some tissue paper.
• Handle everything in gloves.

To illustrate this blog post, we used 3 generations of beautiful white dresses, courtesy of one of our treasured #TeamUPI members – Kim. They are her grandmother’s, mother’s and her own wedding gowns. All three were carefully preserved and sent home in archival textile boxes, padded with acid-free tissue paper.

How to Hold it Together in the Archival World

Keeping it TogetherRead the article Keeping It All Together: Paper Fasteners at the National Archives in the Prologue Magazine Blog about the dangers brought upon archived documents by the little (or large) clips and other common office supplies of this nature. But what are the archivally acceptable means of  “keeping it together”?

• First of all, make sure to carefully extract any and all of the existing clips and staples or remove rubber bands and threads. Smooth out the indentations and holes left by them and make sure there’s no  left over “debris”.Brass paper clips

• Although some Stainless Steel, Brass, Plastic and Binder Clips are perfectly ok for short term storage and handling, long term use of any of them might lead to contamination and/or physical damage to the important paper artifacts, ephemera and documents.adjustable rare book storage box

• For permanent archival storage of larger items, especially the more fragile ones, we recommend housing them individually rather than in groups. For example, Adjustable Rare Book Storage Boxes give you flexibility in terms of size and they do keep the item together by applying gentle but firm pressure on all sides. These kinds of items are best stored vertically, fully supported all around.

• Items of various materials, age and damage level should not be combined inside the same enclosure to avoid cross-contamination. However, individual documents can be contained and preserved by putting them into clear enclosures and then grouped together inside folders or envelopes

• The smaller groups of items should be placed inside strong, archivally safe boxes to preserve them from physical damage, dust, dirt and light, the archenemies of the aging paper. Moisture-resistant options are also available and provide an extra layer of protection, especially for natural disaster-prone areas.

Using Fosshape for Mountmaking

Fosshape is revolutionary light weight material for mountmakingFosshape, the new specially engineered polyester material looks and feels like felt in it’s raw state, shrinks about 25% and stiffens from applied heat. Because of it’s infinite flexibility, it is ideal for creating low-cost lightweight forms for costume or hat display. Fosshape is durable for indoor or outdoor use and even breathable. It saves valuable time and labor during the construction process, since no messy additives or drying/setup time are required. All synthetic, it is not affected by humid conditions or water, and is mold and mildew resistant. University Products offers Fosshape in 2 different weights/thicknesses. Please see How-To Tips with instructions on using Fosshape and more technical information. Also, watch our new video on creating a dress form out of Fosshape using both a steamer and a heat gun:

New How-To Video on Mount Making

University Products is adding instructional videos to its www.universityproducts.com website, and the first video is now available. The new series of videos will showcase the company’s line of tools and equipment in operation, as well as demonstrating materials and offering assembly instructions.

The video series are designed to provide customers with an understanding of how tools and equipment are used, and the potential applications for products that will save time and money, and improve collections care.

The debut video highlights the creation of Ethafoam® Cavity Mounts for 3-dimensional objects. This instructional video demonstrates mount making tools including the Ethafoam® Knife/Saw, Benchmark® Foam Knives, and the Quick-Cut Hot Knife in use.  In addition, a variety of mount making materials including Ethafoam, Artifact Wrap, and Polyester Batting are included in the demonstration.

In the video, Ethafoam is cut to size to accommodate a specific object.  A cavity is then created in the Ethafoam using a variety of cutting tools and contour gauge for measuring the depth of the cavity.  Finally, appropriate padding and lining materials are added to create the perfect storage mount.

Future videos will include the use of Fosshape for creating lightweight forms for costume display, the Colibri Book Covering System in use, a demonstration of the University Products’ new Polyester Spot Welder and dozens of others.

We want to make you a star!  Share your video of University Products’ tools or equipment in use in a professional library, archives, or museum setting and you could receive up to $100 in free supplies for your organization.  Email mpfoster@universityproducts.com for details.

A University Products How-To Tip: Temperature & Humidity

Temperature and Humidity
Besides light, there are additional environmental concerns, such as temperature and humidity, that can  adversely affect a collection. For every 18 degree F (10 C) increase in temperature, it is estimated that chemical reactions in paper double. Relative humidity is a measure of the capacity of air to hold water. This amount varies as temperatures increase or decrease. Paper and other porous materials either absorb or lose moisture as temperature and humidity levels vary. This action causes shrinking, stretching, and the eventual breakdown of structural fibers, while contributing to formation of acids. The effect is similar to the cracking, splitting, and weaknesses that result when an outdoor wooden deck is left unprotected, though on a microscopic level.

While the ideal temperature and relative humidity levels for proper storage of paper are yet to be agreed upon, consistency seems to be the key factor. The best advice is to treat your collection like one of the family. Hot attics and damp basements make poor living quarters; they also make poor storage facilities. Even a closet that abuts an outside wall may be exposed to a large range of temperature and RH fluctuations over the course of a year.

Monitoring
Maxant HygrothermographWhen properly monitored, the combination of heating and air conditioning equipment, as well as humidifiers and dehumidifiers, allows the maintenance of a stable climate. There are also a variety of tools (with a variety of price levels and degrees of sophistication) that can assist in the monitoring. When fluctuations can be controlled, acid formation and mechanical degradation can be slowed significantly.

Desiccants
In the absence of expensive equipment, RH levels can be controlled and stabilized with the help of desiccants such as Silica Gel. Silica Gel is a porous granular, chemically inert amorphous silica that can absorb 40% to 50 % of its own weight in water. The material comes in several forms including reusable canisters, beads, sheets, and packets. Because it can become fully saturated, Silica Gel must be monitored and reconditioned when saturation occurs. One form of Silica Gel changes from orange to a pale pink to indicate it has reached the saturation level. Again, a proper schedule of monitoring your collection should be maintained to achieve a stable environment.

Having addressed the problems associated with fluctuations in temperature and humidity, it is equally important to address the more obvious problems which occur with constant extremes. The combination of high temperature and relative humidity promotes mold growth and encourages insect infestation, whereas a cold and dry environment leads to embrittlement. As you may have guessed, neither scenario is going to improve the condition of your collection.

Acceptable temperatures in your storage area should remain lower than 68 degrees F, with relative humidity between 30 and 50%.  Fluctuations should not exceed +/- 5 degrees F in temperature, and  +/- 3% relative humidity within a 24 hour period.

Most museums and libraries strive to achieve the ideal conditions described above, but they may fall under the same restraints that you and I are likely to come across. Lack of time, expertise, and money can prevent us from achieving ultimate conditions. In addition, each of our individual geographic locations can present problems unique to that area. All we can do is strive for improvement.

A University Products How-To Tip: Display and Storage of Books

Books present a variety of unique conservation concerns.  Numerous construction materials may include paper, leather, fabric, silk, thread, and adhesives, each of which have specific requirements in the area of conservation.  Unlike a photograph or simple sheet of paper, a book has moving parts (pages) and must be handled and manipulated to perform the function it was designed for.

Protection from temperature and humidity fluctuation, ultraviolet light, and damaging display or storage materials is necessary for the long-term survival of books.  Beyond that, books take on a whole new set of rules.

Open Books
Opening a book completely (180 degrees) can flatten the spine and cause considerable damage.  Collectors often wish to display the book opened. To do so safely, the book should not be opened more than 90 degrees, and both front and back covers should receive full support.This can be accomplished using commercially available book cradles, support wedges and book mounts. They should be manufactured of inert materials (usually Plexiglas) and provide smooth, strong support.

A sheet of polyester (Melinex) cut to the proper size is ideal for holding down “springy” pages of an open book on display.  Because it is crystal clear, the page can be viewed without obstruction.  In addition, it will protect the exposed page(s) from dirt, dust and fingerprints.  The polyester page protector should be fastened to the support, never to the book itself.

Closed Books Storage
Closed books are a little simpler to store.  Adequate circulation should be maintained within the storage area.  Books stored on shelves or in a book case should not be pushed against the back wall, but kept an inch or two away to allow circulation of air.  This is especially important if it is an exterior wall since changes in temperature and humidity are more likely to occur. They should be stored upright on the shelf rather than laid flat, but should not be allowed to lean since the strain could damage the spine.  Books with leather bindings should be stored away from those with cloth or paper bindings to prevent migration of naturally occurring acids and oils in leather from damaging paper or cloth bindings.  Like-size books should be stored together to provide proper support, but should not be so tight as to cause damage when removed or replaced.
The downside to storing your book collection closed and on shelves is that viewing the book requires handling the book.  Careless handling of books can cause irreparable damage, and a few common sense handling procedures can preserve a book in its pristine condition.  Instead of pulling a book out by the top of the spine, push in the books on either side and remove by gently grasping both sides (another good reason to leave a few inches of space behind the books).  Modern day books with dust jackets should be covered with a polyester book jacket cover. Book jacket covers are fairly inexpensive and provide increased protection from general wear and tear. They also prevent chemicals from body oils in the hands and fingers from damaging the book.  Use only polyester or other inert materials to cover books since some plastics or acidic papers can cause more harm than good.  Most libraries use polyester dust jacket covers.

Older/Damaged Books
Older books that are already exhibiting signs of weakness or damage must be treated differently.  These should be stored flat rather than upright to provide needed support, and never more than two or three books high.  Ideally, each damaged book should be stored individually in a box custom made to the book’s dimensions.  These boxes should be manufactured from archival quality materials only.

Some damaged books can and should be repaired. Repair work should only be attempted by a qualified  book conservator trained in using proper materials and techniques.  A book conservator can deacidify any books manufactured with acidic paper, repair tears in pages, tighten loose hinges, and create proper storage boxes, among other procedures.  Properly cared for, your book collection will last indefinitely.

 

A University Products How-To Tip: Conservation Framing

You have just completed the framing of your photograph, print or document, and have it proudly displayed in your home or office. Already, certain chemical reactions have begun to occur which can result in yellowing, brittleness, and overall deterioration. Colors can fade, clarity will decrease, and eventually, the value of the image will diminish.
A framed item is usually exposed to direct or indirect sunlight, as well as interior lighting (both fluorescent and incandescent). All of these emit varying degrees of the damaging ultraviolet portion of the spectrum that causes paper to discolor and inks to fade. In addition, the paper, board, adhesives, glazing (glass) and even the frame itself, can accelerate the process of disintegration.
While it may seem that your only option is to lock up your collection somewhere, away from the perils of man and nature, it is no longer necessarily to resort to such extremes. Conservation framing techniques and materials available today allow you to exhibit your cherished photos and prints in relative safety. To insure they are properly framed you should consult either a qualified conservator or picture framer trained in conservation framing techniques. You may even wish to attempt the job yourself, although the time, patience and expertise required to do the job properly is considerable. Whether you decide to work with an expert or take on the task yourself, there are a few basic principles you should be aware of to make sure the job is done properly.

The Frame Package
Conservation framing starts from the back of the frame and works forward through the framing package. The sealing of the back of the frame provides protection from dust, moisture, atmospheric pollution and varying climatic changes. It should be acid free, and buffered to prevent the development of acids in the future. The frame backing should be secured using pH neutral adhesives or tapes. There are many available for just that purpose.

1. Frame Back
Beneath the frame backing paper (sometimes called the dust cover), is the backing board or filler. Sufficient backing provides additional strength and rigidity. Several types are used including corrugated paper board, corrugated plastic, and solid foam core boards. There are dangerous as well as safe varieties of each available. Any paper backing board should be acid free and preferably buffered. Plastic board should be inert and free of harmful plasticizers. Solid core foam boards should also be both acid free and inert.

2 . Back Mat
As you proceed toward the front of the frame package, the next layer would be the back mat. Museum board will provide the safest support for your artwork. Made of 100% rag, this board should be acid free and lignin free. Since the entire back of the autographed document will lie completely against this layer, it may very well be the most crucial layer of the frame package.

3. Attaching Art to the Back Mat
Proper hinging and mounting materials are a necessity when attaching the document or photo to the back mat. By museum standards, the only proper method involves attaching hinges made from acid free Japanese tissueWheat starch or rice starch paste are the only acceptable adhesives for this application since they are acid free and reversible. The first piece of hinging tissue is adhered to the back of the photo or document, leaving a portion of the hinge protruding above the item. The adhesive should face out when the document is laid face up on the back mat. The second piece of tissue lies over the first, without touching the document, securing the document to the backmat. The window mat can then be positioned over the document to completely hide the hinges. New products such as mounting strips and mounting corners are also available. These products allow you to mount without using any adhesive on the artwork, and are extremely efficient. However, Japanese hinging remains the time tested choice of most conservators.

4. Window Mat
The window mat is the next layer, offering strength and support in addition to providing sufficient air space between the glazing and the artwork. Ideally, the window mat should be 100% rag, acid free, buffered, and contain no alum or lignin. In addition, colored window mats should be bleed and fade resistant (conservators usually prefer white or cream white to be on the safe side).

5. Glazing
Finally, comes the glazing. Both glass and Plexiglas are now available with UV filtering layers to protect your print or photograph from dangerous light. You may find that the UV filter glazing materials have a minor tint that changes the appearance of your document. This is preferable to an actual change that will undoubtedly occur in its absence. Make sure whatever glazing material you choose, that it does not come in contact with the artwork.

Remember that framing is the creation of a storage container that allows you to view its contents, and that improper storage is a leading cause of deterioration of paper and photographs. When properly framed, your prints and photographs will be enjoyed not only today, but for generations to come.

Archival Photo Storage: Choosing The Best Enclosure

Your valuable photo collection is vulnerable to dangerous threats including environmental contaminants, water, fingerprint oils and PVC plastics. archival quality photo storage box drop front blackWe have products and solutions to protect and preserve your photos for many years to come. University Products offers a wide variety of archival photo products that will help you with your photo restoration and preservation projects.

Included in these products is our line of custom archival boxes that have passed the Image Permanence Institute’s Photo Activity Test. The Photo Activity Test (PAT) evaluates photo-storage and display materials and how they interact with photographic materials. This test can determine the archival quality of materials including, but not limited to, paper, boards, and plastics. The components of such materials are also tested. These may include inks, tapes, paints, and labels.

 

archival quality photographic plastic enclosure sleeveOver 8,000 samples have undergone the PAT test in more than the two decades of the test. This test is administered by stacking materials in contact with image interaction and stain detectors. These stacks are then placed in a humidity and temperature-controlled chamber to simulate aging. This climate-altered chamber stays at a temperature of 70 degrees centigrade and 80% relative humidity. The incubation process of each sample takes place over the course of a 15-day period. Test results are sent to clients and manufacturers within 4-6 weeks after the test is administered.

archival quality photo negative slide storage pagesIn addition to our line of custom archival boxes, University Products offers photo pages and sleeves that have passed the PAT. Per the recommendation of the National Archives, polyester, polyethylene, and polypropylene enclosures provide the most stable and non-damaging storage environment for archiving your photos. Unlike PVC plastics, these materials are inert and do not stick to your photographs.

photo tex archival quality interleaving tissueAt one time, it was believed that photographs stored in buffered enclosures might be adversely affected by buffering. This is no longer believed to be true except for a couple of specific types of photographs. With dye transfer prints and cyanotypes, unbuffered enclosures should be used. The image of both print types can be harmed by alkalinity. University Products’ new Photo-Tex tissue was mentioned on our blog earlier this year as a suitable solution for interleaving between photographs when buffering is not desired.