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.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Crazy Quilt

This past week, we've packed up our quilt collection, which includes crazy quilts such as this one, HLATC QPUS148. Crazy quilts, which gained popularity in the 1880s, are often pieced together from scraps of fabric belonging to family and friends, making them a lovely keepsake.

The maker of this quilt is Maude Cowen and her initials as well as her wedding date, June 19,1909, can be found embroidered on the piece. Maude used scraps of fabric from clothing belonging both to her and to her daughter, including pieces from Maude's own wedding gown. The quilt dates to 1933.

The photo below shows some of the preservation issues of crazy quilts. Using many different types of fabric means the surface of the quilt can deteriorate at dramatically different rates. Some fabrics are fairly stable, though crazy quilts tend to incorporate a lot of silk pieces, which are often very fragile. As the bottom half of the image illustrates, one scrap of the quilt can be in excellent condition while the one adjacent to it is completely deteriorated. Factors, aside from fiber content, that can affect the deterioration rates of fabric scraps are: the age of that specific scrap, any treatments the fabric may have had in the past (i.e. weighted silks) as well as what type of garment the scrap originally was a part of. For example, if the scrap was cut from a well worn silk shirt, which likely would've had been damaged by sweat and frequent washing, versus a piece of cotton fabric from a rarely worn skirt.