Friday, December 4, 2009

In the News

All photos in this post by Jeff Miller

The HLATC move was recently covered in the story, A World of Textiles, a Sea of Boxes by Wisconsin Week. A big thank you to Susannah Brooks for writing the story and to Jeff Miller for the photography. Jeff came by the day we were packing the opera quilt into a box, so you can get a sense of just how large that piece really is!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Rolled Textiles

As you can tell from my less frequent posts, things are really getting busy around here! Prep work has begun for moving approximately 1,500 rolled textiles that are currently stored within cabinets. Here you can see Rich and Matt from C. Coakley working in storage.

The plan is to secure all of the rolled pieces onto their current storage racks and move the racks intact. First, those red plastic caps are inserted into the ends of the rods, eliminating the little bit of space between the rod and the bracket, so now it fits very snugly. Cable ties then secure the rod onto its brackets and the brackets onto the frame.

There are also "bumpers" being created from archival storage tubes cut to specific sizes. Those will be placed between the rolled textiles and the ends of the rod, eliminating any horizontal movement of the textiles. The racks will then be slid onto custom created rolling carts for transport. Once the cabinets are reinstalled into our new storage space, the racks will slide right back into their cabinets. Pretty creative, eh?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Opera quilt

HLATC E1242A, Opera quilt, France, 1897-1900

Intricately embroidered vignettes decorate the front of this European bedspread, which dates to the turn of the 19th century. The amazingly detailed embroidery is credited to the hands of six French nuns, who worked diligently on the piece for three years. The level of detail is so fine that a few of the embroidered women are actually wearing real beaded necklaces.

This impressively sized bedspread (10 ft x 9 ft) is called an Opera Quilt because the scenes depicted on it are from operas playing around the time the quilt was made. The six operas represented: Boheme-1896, Manon-1884, Aida-1871, Cavall Rustice-1890 (Cavalieria Rusticana), Tosca-1900, and Strategia Damore-1896. The images used for the opera 'Tosca' were copied from a series of promotional postcards printed in Italy, probably the year of the premier, 1900. It is likely the other images are also copied from similar postcards.

The quilt is said to have won first prize at the World's Fair in Paris in November of 1900. This gives us some insight into the year the piece was created, as we know that it was finished no later than 1900. Also, since the opera Tosca did not premier until the year 1900, it is likely the quilt was begun earlier and the last vignette added was of Tosca, in 1900.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Archaeological Textiles

WFSA3091, Chancay, Peru, 1100-1400A.D.

These incredible archaeological textiles from Peru are among the oldest pieces in the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection. The fragment shown above, WFSA3091, is absolutely breathtaking in person. The image has not been enhanced in any way, this is the true color of the textile. Dating to between 1100-1400A.D., this slit tapestry weave fragment was woven on a backstrap loom, likely by a member of the Chancay culture in the Central Coast area of Peru. Textiles are among the most fragile of artifacts, making it truly remarkable for pieces this old to have even survived, much less retained the vibrant colors of their natural dyes.

WFAS3091 detail

WFAS 3091 detail

WFSA1848, Peru, 1000-1476A.D.

1996.1.2, Paracas, Peru, 600B.C-200A.D.

WFSA3094, Chancay, Peru, 1000-1476A.D.

Friday, October 9, 2009

In the eighties

If only I was talking about the weather. Fall has descended here in the Midwest, which means it is 50 degrees and raining. It also means we have almost arrived at our big move date! The collection is now eighty percent packed. EIGHTY!! This is great news. And secretly (or not so secretly, since I'm posting it on a blog) we are actually further ahead than the numbers indicate. You might remember from my previous post that we have a significant number of rolled textiles that will not be boxed and therefore aren't being counted in our tallies. So, our progress is actually closer to 90%. Add in the handful of pieces that we are having custom boxes and/or crates built for by fine arts shippers and my goodness we're just about done! Ofcourse, it is always that last 10% that seems to take the longest, so we're not claiming victory just yet.

Here you can see Tara working with some of the rolled textiles that will actually be boxed. We are sorting them by size to make securing them within a box a little easier.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Supplies & Resources

Packing 13,000 textiles takes A LOT of supplies. To date we have used hundreds and hundreds of archival boxes in addition to thousands of sheets of acid free tissue. Tyvek, muslin, twill tape, coroplast, ethafoam, and many others have also made appearances in this packing show. Gaylord Brothers, an archival materials supplier, has been our source for all of our packing materials. If you ever need a large quantity of supplies, I highly recommend contacting their bids department. They eliminated the need to shop around for the best price on every single supply and having a great account representative has made the ordering process a breeze. Less time spent on purchasing leaves me more time to spend on packing and that's a very good thing. Many thanks to Michelle from Gaylord!

Recently, I searched for resources discussing appropriate materials to be used when packing artifacts, so I could share them with members of our move team. This online publication from the Canadian Conservation Institute is really great as is this list of materials from PACIN: the Packing, Art Handling, and Crating Information Network.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Bonnie Cashin Pink Leather Coat

While packing some of our costume collection this past week, Laura noticed some debris in the pocket of the piece she was working with. Upon further inspection, we discovered it was tobacco left behind by the previous owner/wearer. The tobacco had likely been in the pocket for over 30 years! The piece was isolated from the Collection while we inspected it for any signs of insect infestation. After determining that there were no insects, the tobacco and a few scraps of cigarette packaging were cleaned off of the piece.

The coat, HLATC BCC27, is a pink leather Bonnie Cashin design created in collaboration with Philip Sills. Bonnie was an American designer, well known for her work for Coach, where she introduced the metal fasteners which you often associate with Coach products. You can see examples of the metal hardware she is so well known for on this jacket, which dates to the 1970s. Learn a little more about Bonnie in this great post on the FIDM museum blog.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hattie Carnegie Hat

HLATC 1991.22.8
How does one store a feather hat? In this case, the hat, HLATC 1991.22.8, is a 1950s hat from milliner and fashion designer Hattie Carnegie. The feathered brim makes storing the hat especially problematic.

This hat is often chosen by our 3D patternmaking class for analysis of its form and construction. Considering its relatively frequent handling, we wanted to create a storage method that would allow us to pull the hat from its storage cabinet and display it, all without having to actually touch the piece. We museum people love that sort of thing.

Tara Genske was up for this challenge and the hat become her project. Instead of ordering a custom sized box for this piece, she worked a little magic on an existing one. Since the box needed to be extra deep, Tara extended the height of the sides with pieces of archival board.

The next obstacle was what the hat would sit on. It needed to be elevated high enough to keep the feathers from touching anything, but not so high that it was unstable. Using muslin and blocks of ethafoam Tara constructed a hat stand which was attached to a piece of coroplast board cut to the size of the box bottom.

One layer of coroplast board ended up not being sturdy enough for the weight of the piece, so she used two with a another piece of sturdier board sandwiched in the middle. Tara finished off the coroplast platform by threading loops through each side for handles.

Now when the piece needs to be displayed for a class, we simply use the handles to pull the entire tray out of the box, never having to touch the hat. We imagine all those little feathers are thanking us.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Piña tablecloth


Handmade in a European convent in the 1950s, this tablecloth, HLATC EAE1355, shows an incredible attention to detail. While the center square is woven, the edging shows more intricate techniques such as needlelace and drawn thread work. Each of the scallops along the edges is approximately 3" in length and the patterns are infrequently repeated.

Another interesting aspect of this piece is that it is made of piña instead of the more typical linen. Piña is a natural fiber made from the leaves of pineapple plants. It is most commonly used in tropical regions such as Hawaii, the Philippines, Indonesia and India, where it is produced and more readily available.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Tjap blocks

HLATC 1990.4.53

A few interesting batik printing tools have come out of storage for packing this past week. The tjap (pronounced like "chop") printing blocks seen here are from Indonesia, dating between 1900-1950. These blocks are made of copper strips and wire but tjap blocks can also be made of wood.

The process of batik printing involves laying down a layer of wax as a resist to the dye that is applied next. After the wax is removed, the pattern is visible in the spaces where the wax prevented the dye from seeping into the fabric. The application of the wax can be done by hand or with tools such as these tjap blocks. The blocks are dipped in the wax and then pressed onto the fabric. The invention of the tjap revolutionized batik production by making it possible to create high quality designs and intricate patterns much faster than one could possibly do by hand.

To safely pack the pieces we cut blocks of ethafoam and created wedges to immobilize the tjap blocks within archival boxes. The ethafoam was wrapped in a type 16 Tyvek, which is a more papery Tyvek, since the edges of the blocks would have shredded any tissue paper we placed near it. There is also a layer of tyvek covered padding on the bottom of the box underneath the blocks, giving them a little extra cushioning.

HLATC 1990.4.56

Detail of HLATC 1990.4.56

HLATC 1990.3.6

HLATC 1990.3.6

Detail of HLATC 1990.3.6

Thursday, August 20, 2009

End of summer days

Left to right: Diana, Aurelia, Tara, Laura, Maggie

As a little thank you for all their hard work this summer, the packing team went out for a treat this week. The weather outside was perfect, so we walked up to the Babcock Dairy store for some ice cream. We followed that with a leisurely stroll through the beautiful Allen Centennial Gardens. Where some of us, namely me, marveled at how much nicer the Allen's vegetable gardens are than our own.

Left to right: Laura, Aurelia, Maggie, Maya, Tara

Unbelievably, summer is just about over and today is our last day with Aurelia. Secretly, we're trying to keep our jealousy in check as she heads off to the French countryside for a year! She will be diligently working the entire time though, as she always does. We're really going to miss her and wish her the best of luck.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Visible Progress

This is what progress looks like. Empty cabinets! Empty drawers! Shelves are full of packed boxes. It has been a very productive summer.

One of the wildcards still being figured out is the best way to move all of our rolled textiles, which account for a little bit over 10% of our collection. We are currently researching a system where the rolled textiles can be immobilized on their rods and the entire rod (with textiles) will be lifted out of the drawers. The tricky part is finding out where to put those rods full of textiles in the interim. Ideally, they would be loaded into an enclosed unit that could be wheeled out of the building onto a moving truck, making their move smoother, safer and easier. This unit would also need to function as a temporary storage system while the cabinets are removed and reassembled in our new space. The especially tricky part? Try not using wood to build something. Creative solutions welcome.