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.

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.

Conservation Dance

We decided to share with you this wonderful video, showing (and describing) conservation process that took place at the esteemed Victoria and Albert Museum‘s conservation labs a few years ago, during preparations for a large exposition dedicated to Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. An extremely diverse collection, ranging from theatrical set decorations to ballet costumes, worn by world renown dancers, with everything in between (amazing posters, created by some of the greatest artists of the time, photos and other mementos). Costumes, obviously, presented biggest conservation challenges, being actual pieces, made and used for dancing, some of them extremely fragile but nonetheless impressive in their imaginative designs and meticulous detailing.

Conserving Diaghilev from Victoria and Albert Museum on Vimeo.

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.

Dead Sea Scrolls Visit New England

There is a very old and honorable guest visiting New England, more specifically – Boston, Massachusetts. This guest has been around… longer than our current calendar, is fragile and extremely brittle, yet, it’s still standing, and can even travel around the world on occasion! The guest of honor, of course, is the exhibit of Dead Sea Scrolls, joined by a large collection (more than 600 objects) of artifacts on loan from Israel Antiquities Authority.

The exhibit, Dead Sea Scrolls: Life in Ancient Times, opened at the Museum of Science this week with the main attraction being, of course,  2000+ year old fragments of the manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Bible. Mostly written on parchment (although there are some on papyrus and bronze), these precious texts survived all this time because they were hidden in dark caves in the dry and arid climate of the Qumran area adjoining the Dead sea. Dead Sea ScrollOriginally discovered by a Bedouin shepherd around 1947, the first found scrolls underwent some very rough handling (hanging from a tent pole and occasionally being passed around in attempts to figure out their value), and sustained considerable damage. After that, they traveled around, sustaining further damage (one was stuck between two pieces of window glass, trapping the moisture with it, others were nearly destroyed with glue and tape during attempts to “fix” them, and quite a few suffered major mildew and acid damage from being stored in a damp vault placed in non-archival manila envelopes). But once they were finally identified and acquired by the Antiquities Authority, major preservation efforts were made. Tellingly, the maximum time conservators allow for them to be displayed is 90 days, after which the 10 featured scroll fragments will be switched out with new pieces.

Since 1991, the scrolls reside in solander boxes in a climate controlled laboratory while Israel Museum conservators concentrate on removal of tape, oils, metals, salt and other contaminants using the most advanced modern scientific methods. The Museum and Google joined forces to complete the digitization project which is due to be finished in 2016, but you can already scroll (pun intended) through the scanned texts, zooming in areas with very high resolution views, and even read the instant online translation.

Conservator Spotlight – Works on Paper

Works on Paper Conservation Studio

Works on paper globe conservation projectWorks on Paper was established when it’s founder, Carolyn Frisa, relocated to Vermont from Boston in 2008.  She works with cultural institutions, art galleries, framers, dealers in fine art and antiques, private individuals, corporate clients, and insurance companies assessing, restoring and preserving various paper-based artifacts.

A wide range of artistic and historic works on paper fill the studio’s portfolio of conserved artifacts. Some of the artifacts Carolyn worked on are not your conventional flat paper documents or artwork. We were most impressed with the transformation of a badly damaged Smith’s Terrestrial Globe circa 1877, which was restored to it’s original glory.
Carolyn was kind enough to answer some questions for us:

How long have you been in preservation business?
I am entering my thirteenth year as a practicing paper conservator since receiving a master’s degree in paper conservation in 2000. I started my private practice, Works on Paper, in 2008, and have been a Professional Associate of the American Institute of Conservation (AIC) since 2007.

What is your professional background. Have you always been a conservator?
I had the rare and very fortunate experience of being introduced to conservation while still in middle school. I was immediately drawn to the work of conservators, and concentrated in fine art while in high school. I received an undergraduate degree in the history of art from Bryn Mawr College and entered a graduate program in paper conservation at Camberwell College in London the same year. After receiving my master’s degree, I worked as a paper conservator at Tate Britain before returning to the States. After moving to Boston, I began working at the Northeast Document Conservation Center as a Kress Fellow Paper Conservator and stayed with them for the next six years. I relocated to southern Vermont in 2008 and started my own private practice paper conservation studio, Works on Paper, attaining one of my primary goals set while in graduate school.

What is your conservation specialty?
As a paper conservator, I specialize in the treatment of many types of paper-based objects. These include works of art on paper such as watercolors, prints, pastels and posters, as well as archival materials such as maps, letters, documents, architectural drawings and diplomas. One of my favorite specialties is the conservation of historic wallpaper and I typically work on several large-scale wallpaper projects each year. I also work on three-dimensional objects such as globes, fans, and hat and band boxes. This variety of types of objects is one of the primary aspects that initially drew me to paper conservation as a specialty while applying to graduate programs. It definitely keeps thing interesting in my studio and I always look forward to working on the different projects I typically have scheduled for each week.

Can you name one or two of the most memorable artifacts you’ve worked on?
One of the favorite projects I worked on while at NEDCC was the conservation of the Meriwether Lewis Collection, a large collection of letters and documents written to or from Meriwether Lewis as well as other members of the Corps of Discovery while on the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Playing a crucial roll in the preservation of such an important part of our country’s history was one of the most professionally satisfying achievements of my career thus far.
I am currently working on a much smaller scale project for the Danby-Mount Tabor Historical Society (VT) that involves the conservation treatment of a ledger kept by a local blacksmith from 1850 – 1890. This ledger is especially important to the town’s history because it was one of the very few items that were salvaged after the museum’s building was washed into the river and destroyed as a result of Tropical Storm Irene. This ledger, along with several smaller ones and an artifact known as the “witch’s hat”, were retrieved downstream in the weeks following the storm.

Conservation treatment of blacksmith's ledger
Conservation treatment of blacksmith's ledger. Images courtesy of Carolyn Frisa. Click to see in full size in our Gallery.

What would be the hardest project?
The most challenging project I have worked on in my career so far was the conservation of the “Wall of Prayer”, the temporary construction fence outside of Bellevue Hospital covered with missing persons posters and letters of support following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Not only was this the most emotionally charged project I have ever worked on, it also presented a whole host of new conservation treatment challenges.

Bamboo Handle Hake BrushWhat are your favorite archival tools?
My favorite archival tools include various sized metal and Teflon spatulas, tweezers, and Japanese brushes such as the Hake Brush and Kuroge-Tsukemawashi Joining Brush. Other indispensable materials, of course, include Wheat Starch paste and a variety of Japanese Kozo Papers.
—————————————
Location
: Bellows Falls, VT
Online
: worksonpaperconservation.com Blog: Pulp Fixin’
Specialty
: Conserving a wide range of artistic and historic works on paper

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.

March Workshop Madness

This month brings a bounty of online and live educational offerings from the major archival organizations here in the US. Check them out and hurry to register for ones that might be of interest. Some of them are even free…

Society of American Archivists is offering a wide variety of live classes this month, including Digital Forensics for Archivists at the New England Archivists Spring 2013 Meeting in Worcester, MA on March 22. (see full list here) as well as numerous on-demand online courses (available any time).

Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) will have two Collections Care Webinars: Writing your NEH Preservation Assistance Grant, March 14, 2-4 PM ET and Care and Handling of Multimedia Materials March 26, 2-4 PM ET

New England Archivists’ Spring Conference will take place in Worcester, MA March 21-23. You can see full schedule of the events here.

American Library Association (ALA) has prepared a 4-week online course Fundamentals of Preservation that introduces participants to the principles, policies and practices of preservation in libraries and archives. See full course schedule and other info here. First session is scheduled to start on March 25.

Regional Alliance for Preservation  has several workshops planned for March. Some will take place on location and some online. First up is a seminar on Housing Solutions designed to give practical, hands-on knowledge of preservation materials and constructing housing for collections), presented by Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts.  It will take place on March 13, 2013 9:30AM – 3:30PM in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ. See full list of classes here.

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.