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.

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.

A Custom-Boxed Love Story…

We make boxes. Lots and lots of boxes. Large, small, metal-edged, ready-to-assemble, standard and custom. Sometimes a project comes along that leaves all of us breathless…  and not because of how difficult it was to create.

One customer contacted us with a sketch (see picture) and a story that certainly touched our hearts. He was looking for a box with a cut-out of a Humming Bird and a Flower, together with a Latin saying. It was a gift for his fiancee meant to hold World War I love letters of her great-grandfather. How cute is that?

It took hours of work, both designing and producing this truly one-of-a-kind special box, but when it was finally done, we were so proud of the results and happy to help our customer in his quest for the perfect gift that we wanted to share it with you, our readers!

Robert Fulton’s Birthday

Robert Fulton , who was born on November 14, 1765, in Little Britain, PA, was an American engineer and inventor who is widely credited with developing the first commercially successful steamboat. In 1800, he was commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte to design the Nautilus, which was the first practical submarine in history. He is also credited with inventing some of the world’s earliest naval torpedoes for use by the British Navy.

University Products’ founder, Dave Magoon, is quite a collector of paper ephemera and we were able to get our hands (and cameras) on some of the pieces from his collection related to Robert Fulton and his amazing inventions. The best way to protect paper artifacts such as these is to ensure they are stored in a dry cool place. Archival encapsulation (to shield it from dust, dirt and other dangers) as well as appropriate box storage solution (to protect from light and other hazardous elements) can greatly extend the life of even most fragile paper treasures.

Museum on the Move

In some places they say moving is worse than (or at least equals) an earthquake. Now imagine moving a fragile and priceless Museum collection? Or, better yet, the entire museum! The challenges that museum professionals face when presented with a task of packing, transporting and re-installing precious artifacts can be daunting.
Each individual item needs to be assessed, based on it’s individual qualities and state. Precise measurements need to be taken. Custom temporary housing that can withstand the hazards of traveling (be it by air, or by car/truck) needs to be created. Special traveling arrangements, including such diverse details as security and climate control during the journey, have to be made.
Amongst several institutions that recently undertook such monumental tasks and lived to tell the tale, is the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, which lent one of 64 objects from 21 collections that were delivered and set up at Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem, OR. UPenn even dispatched a specialist, Katy Blanchard, keeper of the Near East collection, to head the unloading and installation of a 5,000 year old sculpture on loan for the ongoing show “Breath of Heaven, Breath of Earth: Ancient Near Eastern Art From American Collections” which will be on display at Hallie Ford until the end of this year.

Now, the process of moving the entire collection of Alaska State Museum to a brand new Alaska State Libraries, Archives and Museums building in Juneau hasn’t even started, but the staff and volunteers are hard at work, packing it all up and getting everything ready. Even though the trip won’t be long and most of the items will be moved on carts via a tunnel that will be built between the old and the new buildings, the task is not an easy one. Apparently there’s no manual on how to move a museum collection, so they had to improvise a lot.

Ivory cribbage boards sit in custom storage mounts made by museum professional Jon Loring. Photo by Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau.

Individually designed custom mounts and boxes were devised for each fragile item in the collection. Literally, each drawer, display and a box  of items has a special plan. Every item is numbered and the numbers are linked with the museum’s database which helps to keep track of the entire collection. Although they are still in the beginning of this road, museum staff are confident that by this time in 2016 when the new building opens it’s door, all the precious artifacts will be safely moved and preserved for admiration by the many generations ahead.
ethafoam planksAmong the many useful tools that might help to achieve such a task are:
Ethafoam planks, rods and sheets – lightweight, versatile archival foam material which is ideal for creating mounts, temporary, as well as long term storage housing for oddly-shaped 3-dimensional artifacts. Ethafoam cutting and shaping tools are also available.
Artifact Bubble Wrap and/or Polyester Batting will provide much needed cushioning and protection on the move.
Drop-N-Tell and Tip-N-Tell indicators together with large warningA-Frame Painting Transport Cart labels will serve as a caution against rough handling during shipping.
• Perma/Cor E-Flute and B-Flute Corrugated Board is a prefect material for creating custom-sized (and shaped) protective enclosures and boxes.
Glass Shield and Adjustable Frame Corner Protectors will temporarily protect your framed art from damage during the move.
A-Frame Painting Transport Cart is perfect for moving large heavy items around and beyond the museum walls.

Surprising Finds

A surprising treasure trove of artifacts from the early 19th century sat patiently behind a college building, waiting to be discovered under only a few inches of dirt.

Alison Bell, associate professor of archaeology, with a sampling of artifacts from the Robinson Hall site. Photo courtesy of W&L University

Alison Bell, alumni, associate professor of archaeology and chair of Historic Preservation & Archaeological Conservation Advisory Committee, paid a visit to the site before the construction crews began working on renovations of the historic Robinson Hall at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. She was shocked to find numerous artifacts simply scattered in the lawn behind the building. Bell returned in a few days with more help and organized a full blown archeological dig. What they unearthed during 3 days of digging, were literally hundreds of artifacts which, Bell believes constitute only about a third of the site. Some objects date from the early 1800s, with some later ones that date to the Civil War. Household and personal items, school lab supplies and much, much more, which allowed a good glimpse at the academic experience in one of the earliest colleges in the country. Negotiations are underway to continue digging in hopes to add to the already impressive collection.

A complete penknife from the early 1800s was among the items uncovered on the site. Images courtesy of W&I University.

After thorough cleaning and sorting (same grid on a smaller scale was used for temporarily storing the artifacts as was for digging them out), archeologists concerned themselves with a proper way to preserve found treasures. We totally approve of their choice of archival quality Top View Artifact Boxes, which allow convenience of being able to view and display collections while avoiding the necessity of extra handling.

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.

Fragile Balance

Three standard box sizes and some examples of glass negatives with their four-flap enclosures open.

We came across an article in AuthentiCity, The City of Vancouver Archives Blog, describing a recent project completed by archive’s volunteers. The project consisted of cataloging and creating archivally safe housing for a large (over 8000!) collection of glass negative in various sizes. Not an easy task!

First, each negative was placed in a convenient 4-flap acid-free paper envelope, which was marked on the spine for easy browsing. Next step was re-housing the negatives in archival boxes which came in standard sizes, but some needed to be modified (by adding foam to the bottom and/or by adding corrugated board dividers) to accommodate size variations. The light-weight sturdy corrugated dividers within the box assure snug fit and immobility of the negatives which now uniformly stand on their side and also add air circulation around small groupings of negatives. Each box was also labeled on the front, so it can be easily spotted and identified while standing on the shelf among others.

Glass negatives stored neatly in their special modified box. Photo by Cindy McLellan.
Glass negatives stored neatly in their special modified box. Photo by Cindy McLellan.

This seemingly complex but necessary storage process provides maximum protection from the elements:
• paper envelopes protect from dust and fingerprints during handling
• board and foam provide cushioning and air circulation
• archival grade specialty boxes shield from dirt, dust, light and moisture while holding negatives upright and supported on all sides

Cudos to Vancouver Archives and their dedicated volunteers for tackling such large but important project and preserving fragile treasures, such as these Glass Negatives so they would continue providing priceless historical information to future generations!

Hats Off to Dr. Seuss

If you are familiar with creative work by the beloved children’s book author and illustrator, Dr. Seuss, you might have noticed that hats play a very important role in his art. Cat in the Hat? The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins? Even the big fat fish from “One Fish, Two Fish” has a tiny yellow hat perched (no pun intended) on it’s head! You can find a creature sporting some sort of headgear on practically every page of his prolific collection of books! But what you may not know, is that Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) himself was an avid collector and wearer of hats! Hundreds of them, according to his sister, Marnie, who wrote about it in Springfield Union News in 1937: “Ted has another peculiar hobby—that of collecting hats of every description…”
Now, twenty-six original hats from Dr. Seuss’ fascinating personal collection, as well as photographs and art reproductions showing the intricate links between the real hats and the imaginary ones, are part of the National Touring Exhibition, appropriately called “Hats Off to Dr. Seuss!” Current stop for this marvelous show is Wilmington, NC, and you can see the full schedule here.

Obviously, we are also interested in hats from a conservation point of view. Being rather fragile, 3-dimentional and often oddly-shaped objects, they are not very easy to preserve. University Products has many options for both storage and display that are used by museum professionals and conservators all around the world. Whether you’re trying to preserve a Fur Hat worn by the Czar of Russia or your grandmother’s little pill box number worn on the day she eloped with your grandfather, similar guidelines should apply.

First of all, conduct all necessary cleaning and repair before attempting to store or display the hat. Professional conservators start by carefully removing dust, dirt and other environmental debris and, if required, mending rips and/or signs of wear and tear. After the initial prep, the hats need support from the inside, so they will not loose their original shape. This can be achieved with a custom-made support (for example, carved out of Ethafoam), by using a Head Mount, or simply by stuffing the hat with Acid-free Tissue. For long term storage, protection from sunlight and dust is essential. Archival Quality Hat Boxes are a perfect solution for these tasks. For display, specially designed Hat Stands or Head Mounts with Lifelike Features would be ideal.

Please remember to always consult a professional conservator (unless you are one :)) before attempting any kind of treatment on objects of monetary or sentimental value.

Happy 130th Birthday, FDR!

The 1934 White House Birthday Party had a “Caesarian” theme, with guests wearing togas and centurion costumes.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States, was born on this day in Hyde Park, New York in 1882, so today we are celebrating his 130th birthday. Roosevelt himself seems to be a big fan of Birthdays. Members of his “Cuff Link Gang”, a group of close associates, usually gathered for themed meetings around FDR’s birthday. And later on, he established the National Committee for Birthday Balls that sponsored charity parties across the nation. Even though the Birthday Balls ended in 1945 with the death of President Roosevelt, both of their legacies live on in the March of Dimes, which helped to eradicate polio and continues raising funds for medical research and works to improve the health of mothers and babies.

Historic view of FDR Library archival stacks, featuring the original document boxes. FDR’s carefully arranged shelving remains in place in some areas of the Library today.

President Roosevelt happened to be an avid collector – from stuffed birds and stamps to prints and books. During his 12 years in the office, many presidential gifts and other memorabilia joined his personal collections. When FDR donated his personal and presidential papers to the government in 1939, it formally started the Presidential Library System. At the same time, Roosevelt pledged part of his estate at Hyde Park, New York to the United States, and his friends formed a non-profit corporation to raise funds for the construction of the library and museum building. The National Archives took custody of his papers and other historical materials and to began administering his library.

University Products' Archival Quality Clamshell Boxes
Because the President needed a wheelchair for daily mobility, the library’s archival shelving had to be spacious enough to accommodate it. Roosevelt personally designed the document storage boxes initially used to house his papers. These Clamshell Boxes allowed his own lap-top style reading while in the storage areas and acted as a sort of paper tray. For preservation purposes, these boxes have since been replaced with newer, acid-free archival containers, but FDR’s original shelving remains in place in many parts of the Library storage areas.

FDR amassed an enormous number of political and personal artifacts, including ephemera and souvenirs from his multiple election campaigns. The Center for New Deal Studies at Roosevelt University in Chicago holds nearly 1,500 artifacts from the Remembering FDR memorabilia collection, on loan from Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Most of it comes from Joseph M. Jacobs, a Chicago labor lawyer, who managed to accumulate the largest private compilation of FDR’s paraphernalia.

More interesting Places and Websites to visit:
FDR Day By Day

Presidential Library and Museum

FDR Presidential Library & Museum on Flickr
Roosevelt Campobello International Park