Angels Project in Maine

This year, University Products supported the Costume Society of America’s (CSA) Angels Project in Maine. In years past, we have supported a Project in other states such as Maryland and Nevada.

The first  Angels Project occurred in 2006. Since then, they have taken place in varying locations, like the Naval Historical Center in Washington, D.C. and the American Alpine Club in Golden, Colorado. While working with local conservators, the goal of an Angels Project is to promote the understanding of the necessity of conservation and preservation while helping the local collections.

The CSA was founded in 1973. The original purpose was to increase the universal understanding of aspects of dress and appearance. The organization began to form regional groups in 1978, and has amassed six groups throughout the US and Canada, as well as one international group. Separate from the Angels Project, the CSA holds multiple events showcasing the costumes and other artifacts they have preserved.

This past year, the Angels supported the Lincoln County Historical Association (LCHA) in Wicasset, Maine. The LCHA was founded in 1954, and aims to “preserve and interpret the history of Lincoln County, Maine.” Included in this program are three museums, which feature a wide variety of items from textiles and costumes to maps and manuscripts. The Angels accomplished a great deal while working, and the provided a numerous amount of supplies and boxes to help the organization continue to flourish.

The LCHA Angels Project marks the CSA’s 12th Project. The Angels choose small museums to assist,  then go and help the museums get their clothing and textiles prepared to process into their collections. There are numerous steps involved in preparing the fabrics for preservation. The item must be photographed, then vacuumed, then receives an accession number and given identification. The final step is packing, using archival boxes.

Next year, the Angels will work with the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA.  The organization they are assisting is the William and Mary Theatre Costume Study Collection, Department of Theatre, Speech and Dance.

University Products has donated archival storage supplies to Angels Projects in the past, and has continued to do so this year. Some such items are Unbuffered Interleaving Tissue, Archival Textile Storage Boxes, and Polyester Label Holders.

University Products is proud to support the CSA and the Angels Project and their conservation efforts.

Angels Project at the Ukrainian Museum-Archives

Once again the Costume Society of America is sponsoring an Angels Project on the day before its Annual Conference and this year the project will be held on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 at the Ukrainian Museum-Archives in Cleveland, Ohio.  This small museum was founded in 1952, is located in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, and is dedicated to preserving and sharing the Ukrainian culture and Immigrant experience.  The museum’s collection includes literature, recordings, photography, and artifacts in addition to approximately 200 to 300 un-housed and un-catalogued textile objects.

The Ukrainian Museum-Archives staff are in need not only of archival supplies, but hands on direction from Angel volunteers who donate their time, skills, and expertise to museums in need.  In May, the Angel Product participants will be vacuuming, photographing, labeling, documenting, and re-housing the costume and textile collection at the museum.

At the request of the Angels Project Committee, University Products has agreed to provide archival materials.  As in previous years, University Products is proud to help in these types of projects.  The company will be donating textile storage boxes, acid-free tissue, label holders, and Pigma pens.

University Products Sponsors “Making Mannequins with Fosshape” Workshop

On November 17th and 18th the Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted Fosshape Workshops sponsored by University Products, Inc. As part of the 2015 North American Textile Conservation Conference (NATCC) the workshop allowed textile conservators from throughout the world to learn about and work with both Fosshape 300 and 600, donated by University Products. The workshop was led by Shelly Uhlir from the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. Her presentation showed how they had used Fosshape in numerous exhibits and allowed them to be able to easily, effectively, and accurately create mannequins for their museum. Once the presentation was completed, workshop participants spent the remaining time working with Fosshape. Three stations were set up to work with Fosshape to create torso, head, and hand mannequin pieces. The participants enjoyed the hands on time, allowing them to be both creative and learn how using Fosshape can be of use in their own museums and private practices. Participants were from countries including the U.S., U.K.. Sweden, Denmark, and Australia. All enjoyed learning about and working with Fosshape.
Making Mannequins with Fosshape

Preserving the Time Capsule Contents

Images recently surfaced of items from a “time capsule” that was buried beneath the cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House in 1795.  The items were originally placed there by Samuel Adams (then governor of Massachusetts) and Paul Revere.  The box was opened in 1855, cataloged, and reassembled with new materials added from that time period.

Among the contents were 23 coins, a medal decorated with the face of George Washington, and several period newspapers, along with a plaque describing the laying of the original cornerstone.  You can read more about it in this Slate article.

Historical significance aside, what we liked seeing were all these treasured displayed in various archival storage products.  The coins were laid out on Corrosion Intercept®, which protects metal artifacts by reacting with and neutralizing corrosive gasses and place inside Artifact Specimen Trays.  There were also a number of Artifact Storage Trays with Clear View Lids that allow you to view the contents while protecting them from dirt and dust.  Acid-free Folders and Tissue also were visible in the images.

It’s fitting then that in March, University Products will exhibit and be a sponsor at a joint meeting between the New England Archivist (NEA) and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) in Boston!  Members of both NEA and MARAC have been working together diligently over the past year to bring you a fantastic three-day program that is diverse, interesting, and collaborative. There are sessions, workshops, repository tours, a Day of Service community volunteer day, and more.  And of course, there is the opportunity to network with members of the archival profession from two regional organizations.

Preserving New Hampshire’s Past for the Future

One of America’s earliest and most successful operetta composers, George W. Stratton (1830-1901), was one of the few to compose and self-publish operettas entirely for children. He and his wife never had children, but instead brought joy to youth through their widely performed showpieces with chimerical plots and advanced choruses, solos, duets, and even recitative. Mrs. Stratton worked with her husband to write lyrics and draw cover artwork. In 1885, they sought a final resting place for their legacy, and gave to their native town of West Swanzey, New Hampshire, the “Stratton Free Library and Art Gallery.”

Stratton provided the library some 2,000 of the best books in the English language, over 200 pictures selected in Europe to be educational in the lines of art, history, or architecture, and music volumes by the finest classical composers to that date. His family trust maintained the library until 1914, when it was given to the town. Alas, much of the artwork was sold in the 1920s to raise funds for the library. At the moment, library has 5 of Lucy Stratton’s oil paintings, and as it happens, they have just heard from someone, whose parents bought one of the paintings by Lucy and he is going to return it to the library.

Upon visiting the Stratton Free Library, one would find only two rooms with minimal belongings. A marble bust of Stratton stands in the main hallway along with neat rows of brown leather-bound books arranged in glass cases. The once-filled gallery is now left with only two landscape paintings. An old trunk contains various operettas and sheet music with exquisite detail. Every booklet includes specific stage directions, costume descriptions, and previews of new operetta releases. One of Stratton’s most notable works, Fairy Grotto, written in 1872, has a plot reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream with a whimsical musical overtone.

Anne Meyer, a “generalist” conservator with a wealth of knowledge, works in the library taking care of the remaining artifacts of the library’s benefactor and his wife. She began as a curious child with an interest in antiques and personal history, and now focuses mostly on restoring textiles, costumes, and period pieces. Her work at the library includes removing over a century worth of dust, finger oils, improper storage damage, and mold with Groom-Sticks, Hydrophilic Sponges, and Wishab Dry Cleaning Sponges. She also spends a lot of time advising visitors on how to preserve their own historical treasures.

Along with the collection of operettas found in the library, many works have also been donated or purchased by the town or Stratton trust. The music that once brought joy to countless children and adults is now being restored in hopes of continuing Stratton’s legacy of great American children’s music.

For more information on the life and works of G.W. Stratton please call (603) 352-9391 or visit the Stratton Free Library, 9 Main St, Swanzey, NH

An Elephant in the Room or a Whale in the Painting

When people say “Elephant in the Room”, they usually mean something huge and obvious that is either being ignored or going unaddressed. But what do you say when there’s a Whale in the Painting and nobody has a clue that it’s there? This past June was a month of such discoveries in the art world, when unexpected objects were found on 2 very different paintings:

Beached Whale Painting
Image Credit: Fitzwilliam Museum

The first painting with a hidden agenda turned out to be an unassuming 17th century Dutch painting, depicting a serene beach scene. However, right in the middle of it, discretely painted over was… an enormous beached whale, which was covered up sometime in the 18th or 19th century. Whether the whale offended somebody’s sensibilities or simply didn’t fit one’s decor is a mystery. There’s no record of it being altered and the discovery was purely accidental, made by Shan Kuang, a conservation student at the University of Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum during cleaning and restoration effort.

Picasso The Blue Room Mystery
Image Credit: The Phillipps Collection

The second discovery was much more public, because it was hiding just under the surface of one of the Picasso’s first masterpieces – “The Blue Room” which has been part of The Phillips Collection for almost 90 years.  Young struggling painter, has been known to “recycle” his canvas. It has been suspected since 1950s that there might be something underneath the odd brushstrokes of the famous painting. But only during the last 5 years, with the help of recent advancements in imaging technology, the underlying image of a bearded man in a bow tie was finally reveled in relative clarity. Experts are still working trying to recreate the original colors Picasso used. Who is the man in the picture remains a mystery, for now… Let the detective work continue!

Preserving Pension Records in Ireland

Images courtesy of The Military Archives
Images courtesy of The Military Archives

In June 1923, the Oireachtas of Saorstát Éireann (Irish Free State) decided to recognize and compensate the wounded members, and the widows, children and dependents of deceased members of the Irish National Army, the Irish Volunteers, and the Irish Citizen Army that had active service during the Easter Week of 1916, the War of Independence, and the Civil War.

An early recruitment poster, c. 1925. Image courtesy of the Military Archives
An early recruitment poster, c. 1925. Image courtesy of the Military Archives

Various pieces of legislation allowed applicants to consider themselves eligible for gratuities, allowances, or pensions. In determining the accuracy of these applications, supporting material was gathered by a committee. These materials included membership rolls, reports of activities carried out by the military formations, detailed information on the course of events during the time period, and about 68,896 military medals.

Today, the Military Service Pensions Collection is being made available online through a series of releases ending in Easter week 2016. Project leaders want to enable the long term preservation of the original records, and allow the public to access the complex collection of about 270,000 to 300,000 individual files. The materials have suffered from poor storage conditions, use of poor quality paper, rusting of the pins, staples and fasteners used, and bad handling.

The preservation process began with the documents being physically cleaned, including the removal of metal, treasury tags and other ties. Files were then reorganized using acid free archival standard supplies. A lab was established on-site for the conservation of badly damaged material. Due to their poor physical state, some files were microfilmed and digitized in order to minimize the handling of the material. Other sources were scanned in color directly as TIFF files and backed up and stored. To allow the public and relatives of former participants in the 1916-1923 period to obtain high quality copies of relevant files in the collection, PDF files were created, and photographs taken of the very fragile material.

One of the Pension Documents, image courtesy of the Military Archives
One of the Pension Documents. Image courtesy of the Military Archives

Next, an online database was created with the digitized original documents through a Military Archives website to maximize the access to the collection. A suitable collections management software package was identified, and then customized to suit the military nature of the files and records. The entire collection was divided into searchable databases, reflecting the vast bulk of the individual applicant’s files in the collection. All files relating to an individual are co-located to fit the various reference codes and have a unique file code as a primary key for reference and sourcing.

The release of the Military Service Pensions Collection comes at a critical time. In 2016, Ireland will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter rebellion in Dublin. This marks the most significant uprising in Ireland, and the start to the independence movement. Following the rebellion, the Irish Republican Army launched a war against the British government that ended in a July 1921 cease-fire and an eventual treaty that established the Irish Free State. The fully independent Republic of Ireland was formally proclaimed on Easter Monday in 1949. With the release of the pension records over the next two years, Ireland can continue to celebrate its independence and remember those who fought to gain it.

The Angels Project

2013 Angels Project, Hoover Dam/Boulder City Museum, Boulder City, NV. Photos by Connie Frisbee Houde

The Costume Society of America was founded on March 23, 1973 to advance the global understanding of all aspects of dress and appearance. In 1978, it began forming regional groups, now encompassing six throughout the United States and Canada, and one international group. CSA promotes its goals with annual national symposia, and publications, including an annual journal, a quarterly newsletter, and a monthly electronic newsletter.

This year’s 40th annual meeting is to be held from May 28th to May 31st in Baltimore, Maryland. The week’s activities include keynote speakers Jay McCarroll and Dominique Streater from Project Runway, presentations, panel discussions, professional development sessions, silent auctions, visits to historic sites, and social hours for participants.

Since 2006, CSA has hosted a special volunteer event, the Angels Project, in conjunction with its National Symposium. This one-day project provides conservation, storage, and curatorial assistance to a costume collection at a small institution. This year, The Angels Project will take place on May 27th at the Historical Society of Baltimore County. Angels will be cleaning, photographing, labeling, documenting, and re-housing the costume and accessory collection to help the small staff of the museum.

Historical Society of Baltimore County building (an old alms house), site of the 2014 Costume Society of America Angels Project. Photo courtesy of CSA

Corrugated Textile Storage Boxes To assist in this deserving conservation effort, University Products is donating archival storage supplies to this year’s Angels Project. Donated items include Unbuffered Interleaving Tissue, Archival Textile Storage Boxes, and Polyester Label Holders. These items will assist in the Historical Society’s renovation goals as it looks to develop new and exciting exhibits to display Baltimore’s unique and diverse history.

University Products is honored and excited to once again participate in this significant cause and donate to the Costume Society of America’s Angels Project 2014.

War and Art

Moscow’s Central Museum of Ancient Russian Culture and Art is named after Andrei Rublev, a great medieval painter of Orthodox icons and frescoes. Located in the buildings of Andronikov Monastery, where the master died sometime in late 1420s, museum is home to a vast collection of Russia’s most important religious art treasures. Peaceful and beautiful, the icons and paintings grace the walls of the monastery since the museum was opened after the WWII. in 1947. There’s also a large collection of hand-written and printed books.

When they packed a large exposition of XV-XVII century icons to travel to Kiev, Ukraine last year, the museum workers had no idea, how sudden and uneasy would be their return. But despite the tremulous events of the last few weeks, the entire collection was carefully packed and safely delivered back to Moscow, with great assistance from the workers of Ukraine’s National Sanctuary Complex “Sophia of Kiev” where the exhibit was supposed to be open through March. Once again, as art overcame war, there’s hope…

MHS Takes Care of History

De-acidification of the newspaper in purified water. Photos by Laura Wulf for the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Photos by Laura Wulf for the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Because our state of Massachusetts has played such a huge role in American history and culture, it is home to a multitude of documents, artifacts and objects of historical significance. Some of them are preserved at the esteemed Massachusetts Historical Society.  Here you can see the fourth volume of a set of Revolutionary-era Boston newspapers collected, annotated, and indexed by Harbottle Dorr, Jr., a Boston shopkeeper, from 1765 to 1776. After the pages were dry-cleaned and the ink tested for solubility, the MHS conservator washed and de-acidified the pages in purified water.

Restored artifact. Photos by Laura Wulf for the Massachusetts Historical Society.

After a gentle wash, pages were dried, and then, the conservator used Japanese tissue paper and wheat starch paste to repair them. You can see a close-up of the restored bottom of the page in the photograph on the left. This project took place in the conservation lab of the Massachusetts Historical Society. You can also read more about MHS conservator and her work on the project in this post on the society’s official blog, The Beehive.

Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 31 March - 5 April 1776
Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams

The Massachusetts Historical Society is an independent research library and manuscript repository founded in 1791. Its holdings encompass millions of rare and unique documents and artifacts vital to the study of American history, many of them irreplaceable national treasures. Among them is correspondence between John Adams, who’s birthday will be celebrated tomorrow, and his wife Abigail. You can even view some of their letters right on your computer, in amazing high resolution, including her famous “Remember the ladies.