Preserving the Old Glory

Archival Quality Flag Box from University ProductsMemorial Day was established for remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces and naturally, the American Flag takes center stage in this somber celebration. There are very particular rules and procedures, called collectively The Flag Code for everything from carrying and hanging to folding and disposal of Old Glory (which are actually part of U.S. legal code). Although “flag etiquette” is not particularly enforced, taking good care of your cherished symbol will exponentially increase it’s life span, whether it’s brand new or an old family heirloom!

Conservation – As with any textile, make sure to conduct all necessary cleaning and repair before attempting to store or display the flag. Checking for possible insect infestation/ damage is always a good idea with textiles, especially if previous storage conditions were not ideal. Once it is deemed clean of unwanted visitors, conservators start by carefully removing dust, dirt and other environmental debris, treating stains with appropriate cleaning products and, if required, mending rips and/or signs of wear and tear. Old Flag conservation, repair and mounting at the Museum Textile ServicesWe always recommend contacting a professional conservator if you are dealing with an especially fragile item of high monetary or sentimental value. Our friends at Museum Textile Services specialize in treating all sorts of fabric treasures, including flags. Click on the image to read just one of their flag-restoration stories.

Cleaning – Minimize washing or cleaning of older flags. You should not wash or dry clean them except with the advice of a professional conservator. However, vacuuming gently (on low suction) using a brush attachment covered by a clean piece of cheesecloth is usually a safe and effective cleaning method. New flags, depending on the type of material, can usually be washed by hand using a mild soap.clear view flag storage box

Special Storage – triangular-shaped archival quality boxes are designed specifically for storing properly folded flags. Acid-Free Tissue or Polyester Batting may be used for stuffing and support, if needed. University Products offers 2 kinds of ready-to-assemble flag boxes: the Archival Quality Flag Box in Blue/Gray Corrugated Board and the Clear-View Flag Box in 20pt. inert Polyester.

Creating a Custom Product for Paintings Restoration

Mini Suction TableDon’t you just love going “behind the scenes”, sneaking a peek at the artists’ sketches and finding out about the designer’s source of inspiration?
We sure do, and here’s your chance to learn about the story behind the product, namely – our New Painting Suction Table:

Mini Suction Table SketchIn March 2013, the Washington Conservation Guild held their annual “Three Ring Circus”, which included three concurrent sessions that preceded a reception and exhibitors’ showcase. University Products Vice President and General Manager, John Dunphy attended the WCG and spoke with conservator Nancy Pollak about a specific product of interest to her.  As a conservator of paintings and painted textiles, Pollak was seeking a suction table that would allow treatment of paintings that are still mounted on stretcher bars. The device would be easy to slide between the canvas and the stretcher even in small corner areas.

Mini Suction Table in use behind the stretcherAlthough University Products did not offer the product at the time, John recognized that the creation of this new table was attainable.  Using the rough sketches provided by Ms. Pollak, he began to conceive a design that would be both practical and affordable. After engaging in a discussion with the company’s current suction table manufacturer, a painting suction table prototype was manufactured exclusively for Ms. Pollak.  After receiving and testing the prototype, Ms. Pollak stated: “I am so impressed with this, and with the way you are working with me to bring this idea to fruition. The current design has good suction and and the way the suction port comes from the bottom makes it easy to hold and maneuver into place without disturbing the canvas. The wedge can slip between the stretcher and canvas, and I was even able to use in on a flat-faced stretcher where there was very little space. It works really well in corners.”

The painting suction table is just one example of the many quality museum and preservation tools and products that Mini Suction Table in use on a stretched paintingUniversity Products continues to offer and develop for its customers. The scope and breadth of the products goes far beyond those materials and goods found in the industry. The people at University Products, like John, have the knowledge, vision, and experience to bring customer’s ideas and needs from an intangible concept to a useful product that can be used to complete work more efficiently and effectively.

Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month is celebrated during March in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, corresponding with International Women’s Day on March 8.

Throughout this month, many major archival institutions in the US (including the Library of Congress, National Archives, National Park Service, and Smithsonian Institution) join together in paying tribute to the generations of women and their invaluable contributions to American History, Science, Politics and many other aspects of life.

Our friends at Museum Textile Services featured a conservation project they just completed for The Wheaton College’s Permanent Collection that is directly related to one of women’s critical roles in American history. You can read this fascinating series of blog posts (parts 1, 2 and 3) describing preservation efforts on a large collection of artifacts from the American Women’s Voluntary Services (AWVS), the largest American women’s service organization in the United States during the World War II. MTS staff were entrusted by Wheaton College with a large collection of WWII uniforms and accessories, as well as tiniest clothing details such as spare buttons and badges. Each garment/accessory was assessed individually and prescribed various conservation/cleaning treatments administered to them depending on the material, condition and individual qualities of the item. In the end, all were surrounded by (and/or stuffed with) acid-free tissue and placed in archival textile boxes for safe storage.

Overall, it was a modest but precise treatment for these prized pieces of history, making them safe for study and display. We sincerely thank Museum Textile Services for employing our archival quality products throughout this important project.

World Famous Tapestry Comes Alive

The Bayeux Tapestry, is probably one of the most famous pieces of embroidered cloth (yes, despite it’s name it’s not really a tapestry) in the world. This massive (nearly 230 ft) depiction of the Norman conquest of England which was first mentioned in 1476, has survived multiple invasions, wars, revolutions and finally, after nearly being taken away by the Nazis during the WWII, was returned to it’s home town of Bayeux in 1945, where it is still exhibited at Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux. Amazingly, the Tapestry has survived over nine centuries practically unscathed!

The Tapestry serves as a tremendously important historical document, even though it was commissioned by the House of Normandy, and presents a rather one-sided view of the event. In 2007 it was added to the UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

The artifact is embroidered in wool yarn on linen, which is why it is not technically a tapestry (in which the design is woven into the cloth). It has been patched in numerous places and some of the embroidery (especially in the final scene) has been reworked, but we can be certain that it maintained much of its original appearance seeing that it compares closely with a careful drawing by Antoine Benoît made in 1730. It has quite a few replicas and has inspired some pretty impressive imitations around the world including the amazing needle lace 30ft “table runner” in the Textile Collection of the National Museum of American History.

The real thing, however, is still in the little French town of Bayeux, where it is housed in a long glassed vault with a door. In case of fire, gas cylinders will trigger automatic extinguishers. The vault is also equipped with an air conditioning system to preserve the embroidery. But if you are not planing to visit Normandy any time soon, you can see the The Bayeux Tapestry “come alive” in this wonderful animation:

Resurrecting the Uniform and Memory of William Cannonball Jackman

Throughout the history of Baseball’s Negro Leagues during the early 20th century, virtually every player had a nickname, such as “Cool Papa” Bell, Bullet Joe Rogan, and Scrappy Brown. These colloquial names given to ballplayers by fellow ballplayers, added some flair to the league’s brand of baseball. The man nicknamed “Cannonball,” William Jackman, is perhaps one of the sport’s most talented, yet unknown legends. His nickname derived from his blistering fastball, and his career statistics showcase over 200 victories, nearly 800 strikeouts, and 48 shutouts during a 20-year career. His talents saw sportswriters compare Jackman, who was once dubbed “The Greatest Player You’ve Never Heard Of”, to big league Hall-of-Famers like Walter Johnson and Grover Cleveland Alexander. During his career, Major League Baseball was segregated and remained so until second baseman (and future Hall-of-Famer) Jackie Robinson broke in with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. Some baseball historians believe that Jackman had the talent necessary to succeed in the big leagues, had the league integrated earlier. Jackman pitched into his mid-50s until retiring from baseball in 1953. He died in 1972 at the age of 74.

Uniform of Boston Royal Giants player William "Cannonball" Jackman after conservation. (Photo courtesy of Museum of African American History, Boston and Nantucket, MA.)

A uniform worn by Jackman in his playing days with the Boston Royal Giants, has been given a second life by our friends at Museum Textile Services in Andover, Massachusetts. Included in the entire uniform package is a jersey, pants, belt, cleats, socks, stirrups, two rosin bags, and some pads. The uniform is being preserved and stabilized by MTS in an effort to have it included in the Museum of African American History‘s “The Color of Baseball in Boston” exhibit opening on May 19. With any fabric item, insects are a concern. After the initial insect damage was attended to by placing the object in an anoxic fumigation chamber, these items were subsequently cleaned with a HEPA vacuum. Using Ethafoam, conservators carved out a head mold to be used as a display piece for Jackman’s hat. This mold will be used to display the piece during exhibition. Conservators also used a Preservation Pencil which relaxed the fabric and released old adhesives. This tool directs hot or cold water vapor from an ultrasonic humidifier.

University Products has an all-star lineup of products that can help you complete a similar project. We carry the proper conservation tools such as HEPA vacuums, Ethafoam planks and rolls, foam saws and knives, as well as preservation pencils to bring your prized memorabilia back to life. We also offer ready-made display products including  conservation suit forms and head mounts to help you showcase your collection.

Museum Textile Services Conserves and Mounts A Star-Spangled Banner

With this past December’s commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, our friends at Museum Textile Services in Andover, Mass., took on the task of conserving an American flag from the US Coast Guard ship the USS Centaurus earlier in 2011. The USS Centaurus served as an attack cargo ship in WWII’s Pacific Theater including the Battle of Guadalcanal (in the Solomon Islands) in June 1944. The ship’s career also included being involved in the Battle of Okinawa and servicing Pearl Harbor.

American Flag from US Coast Guard ship USS Centaurus
The USS Centaurus flag prior to conservation, Courtesy of Coast Guard Historic Collection

Museum Textile Services’ conservation process required multiple steps and extreme care. With an additional flag that also served at Guadalcanal, the flag from the Centaurus was removed from its old backing fabric and vacuumed and humidified to remove particulates, folds, and wrinkles. Also, upon arrival to MTS, the Guadalcanal flag had such severe fraying that servicemen tied knots in the strands on the fly end. Not every knot was able to be untied prior to mounting.

Both the Centaurus and Guadalcanal flags were pressure mounted in an effort to cut down on the amount of required stitching. MTS used our quarter-inch archival Polyfelt to make a soft surface for the flags. This padding was placed on a solid support panel made by our friends Small Corp, Inc., in nearby Greenfield, Mass. MTS also used a UV-filtering acrylic box to complete the project.

If you require specialized archival materials for your textile conservation project, see University Products’ selection of textile conservation products.