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Textile Group: News and Reviews PDF Print E-mail




Who: Leanne C Tonkin, Textile Conservator, People’s History Museum, Manchester
What: Symposium 2011 - Adhesives & Consolidants: Research & Applications
Where: Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI)
When: October 17th -21st 2011 Ottawa, Canada

The following piece is a personal overview of the conference with an emphasis on textile papers and demonstrations, written in response to a request from textile group members for information regarding adhesives and consolidants.   

This symposium was the ninth in a series organised by the CCI.textile_group_cci_figure_1.jpg The attendance and participation of nearly 300 delegates made the event a truly significant one. 37 papers, 32 posters and over 30 demonstrations were presented by conservators and conservation scientists from 16 countries. The programme also included an afternoon of informative tours visiting conservation laboratories around Ottawa, as well as a Demonstration Day which took place at CCI. Demonstrations of samples, instruments and on the application of adhesive/consolidants techniques concluded the week long event.

A warm welcome
Jeanne Inch, Director General and Chief Operating Officer, CCI, warmly welcomed delegates and participants. She announced that the proceedings would be disseminated at no cost, through the CCI website .
Jane Down, Senior Conservation Scientist, CCI, and Chair of the programme, enthusiastically introduced the various aspects of the application and study of many adhesives and consolidants used on numerous materials to be presented; paper and archival material; objects made of wax, skin, polyurethane, and poly(methyl methacrylate); paintings, decorative arts, and plaster; textiles; stone; and glass.

Key note presentation: Does What We Want Exist?
Velson Horie delivered a vibrant start with an overview of the history of conservation and the development of problem solving.
The development of new scientific techniques during the 19th century introduced new ways of treating objects, but not always with the necessary evaluation steps. Since the 1960s/70s conservators realised they had to think about things more carefully. Horie discussed the variables and inconsistencies in the application of adhesives and consolidants, even when undertaken by the same person and on the same object and the  importance for conservators to accept this variability.
So, how do we do better? ‘Embrace our ignorance and be explicit about what we don’t know’. Horie expressed the importance of shared visions and outcomes, and often expertise to tackle preservation problems can be uncoordinated resulting in mistakes being repeated. Communication between material scientists and conservators will enable better informed solutions to conservation problems.

General talk highlights
Talks were given in a systematic way, which provided a great opportunity to listen to a vast array of disciplines emphasising the sheer scale and responsibility allocated to conservators. Five great papers on Paper, Books and Archival Materials got the audience going for the week. Talks ranged from the potential of degradation/interactions between adhesives from natural sources and paper substrates (Alice Cannon, State Library of Victoria, Australia) to understanding the stability of various adhesive tapes and heat-set tissues (Jane L Down et al, CCI, Canada). The next five presentations were concerning Wax and Skin Objects, Gecko and Protein Glues.
Julia Fenn’s (Royal Ontario Museum, Canada) presentation on developments arising from the study of the adhesion mechanisms of gecko feet was sensational. Recent research conducted on mimicking the underside of gecko toes, which is dry and mechanically activated, is proving a viable solution for some problems with existing museum adhesives.
The following day began with six presentations on paintings. Christina Young’s (Courtald Institute of Art, England) investigation into the interpretation of glass transition temperature using thermomechanical techniques was complimented with great video interpretation illustrating the difference of the storage of energy levels of elasticity (lots) and viscosity (little).  Discussion led to the use of the mixture of surgeon glue and natural wheat starch paste in treating thread-by-thread tear mending of canvas paintings (Petra Demuth et al, Cologne University of Applied Sciences, Germany). After the designated poster session three talks concentrated on the Decorative Arts and Plaster involving examinations of the effects of consolidation treatments on fragile, multilayered decorative coatings (Nanke C Schellmann et al, V&A, England). The stone section included a highly entertaining talk given by Andrew Thorn (ARTCARE, Australia) on the Thursday morning, where he explained his preliminary evaluation on consolidation and grouting requirements of water saturated siliceous stone. Great research indicating aminopropylmethyldiethoxysilane (AMDES) as an efficient solution for the consolidation of polyurethane ester foams was presented by Eleonora Pellizzi, (Centre de Recherche sur la Conservation des Collections, France). This research could have wide implications regarding all kinds of objects, including costume and furniture. Three papers on glass included Martina Raedel’s (Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing BAM, Germany) talk on the development of a new filler combining glass adhesives with specially treated glass powder to bridge wide gaps and cracks. The talk sessions were concluded with presentations concerning poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA). Donald Sale (Royal Pavillion, England) focused on measuring the yellowing of six adhesives which had been initially assessed nearly 20 years ago as suitable conservation materials for PMMA furniture, objects and sculpture.

Textile session
Six papers filled this section of the conference.

Irene Karsten (CCI, Ottawa) examined the peel strength of silk and nylon textiles adhered to sheer support fabrics (figure 2). textile_group_cci_conference_2011_4.jpgSEM was used to observe the transfer of adhesive. Conclusions revealed peel strength varied significantly depending on surface area and mechanical properties of the adhesives.

Zhao Feng (China National Silk Museum, China) introduced a new consolidation method for treating fragile silks which involved a combination of fibroin and ethylene glycol diglycidyl ether (EGDE). The consolidation process involved spraying the fibroin-EGDE onto the silk in layers allowing for drying time in between. Treatment of a Liao Dynasty silk relic has since been treated successfully with this consolidation formulae and technique. I have yet to ask Zhao whether this form of treatment would be suitable for Western silks which may have been processed somewhat differently to Eastern silks.

Susanna Conti (Opificio delle Pietre Dure e Laboratori di Restauro di Firenze, Italy) discussed the success of applying an organic consolidant (chitosan) and a hybrid inorganic-organic nanostructure consolidant in treating two archaeological burial textiles from the 16th to 17th centuries. Both consolidants were found to increase fibre stability and mechanical elasticity.
Suzanne Meijer (Rijksmuseum, Netherlands) spoke about her problems of treating old adhesive work which had been applied to two 17th century Dutch tablecloths due to be displayed in 2013.
Joel Thompson and Masumi Kataoka (Museum of Fine Arts, USA) reviewed seven case studies, including a Native American hide shirt and fragile linen wrappings from an Egyptian mummy. Adhesive treatment ranged from minimal compensations to structural reinforcement. 

Zenzie Tinker (Zenzie Tinktextile_group_cci_conference_2011_2.jpger, Zenzie Tinker Conservation, UK) considered the previous adhesive treatment of textiles and how and why these scenarios are increasingly beginning to require further conservation (figure 3). Tinker exemplified her talk with two recently conserved furnishing textiles: an 18th century Mughal tent hanging and a set of 18th century bed hangings.

The even mix of analytical research informing decision-making and practical case studies based within institutions and private practice worked really well. The session emphasised the importance of micro-level thinking to practical hands-on projects under the pressures of exhibition deadlines.  

Conservation laboratory visits and the Parks Canada Ontario Service Centre, Ottawa
Visits to six conservation laboratories took place half way through the week as a break from the talks. The following section refers to the group visit to Parks Canada Ontario Service Centre, Ottawa. Parks is home to a team of conservators and conservation scientists, material culture researchers, marine archaeologists, and resource conservation staff.

Laura Nagora, Senior Conservator; gave an insight into the work completed in the Reproductions of Historical Objects Lab. She explained how they utilise the collection to make reproductions to be held and touched for use in remote sites and for educational curriculums. Rubber moulds are used with a preference to use silicone rubber as this captures all detail of the artefact.  

Anne Lapointe, Senior Fine Arts Conservator; introduced a textile_group_cci_confernece_2011_3.jpg19th century reproduction of an English painted leather screen she was about to work on.

Lucie Thivierge, Senior Textile Conservator; reviewed an adhesive treatment applied to the opening seams on a life jacket c.1945. PVA activated with acetone were amongst her solutions. She explained the transportation of costume pieces in crates and general support mechanisms for storage and display (figure 4). 

Barbara Buchanan, Paper Conservator, provided information about current projects; recent solutions to treating silvering on photographs and issues with care and handling. For instance, paper items with seals and the dilemmas of transporting an object with very light and very heavy elements

Joy Moyle, Conservation Scientist, allowed access to the fantastic science analytical labs which services heritage institutions all over Canada. Microscopy, sample prepping and X-raying facilities were discussed. No stone would be left unturned here that’s for sure! Barbara Tose, Archaeological/Historical Objects Conservator, who kindly headed the whole tour, talked about case studies she is currently involved in, for instance, costume pieces found from underwater ship wreckages. Barbara also introduced the Reference Collection Room which provides a national reference for ceramics and glass. The visit was a great opportunity to see the conservation support and advise Parks delivers. Coming from a small institution, I really enjoyed learning about the expertise of these conservators and the collaborative ways in which they work to help solve conservation challenges on a wide scale.

Demonstration day highlights
The final day of the conference took over 220 conservators to CCI head offices to see some of the theories put into practice. The day also encouraged more debate about the application of commonly used adhesives and consolidants and the introduction of new products. The short sessions help maintain good concentration and stimulus throughout the day with time to break and make comparative notes with other conservators.textile_group_cci_conference_2011_7.jpg

Pippa Cruickshank, (Department of Scientific Research, British Museum), reviewed her techniques of applying paper repair patches and linings to cellulosic textiles using Klucel G®. Pippa reiterated her priorities were concentrated on 2-dimensional objects where flexibility was less important. She showed patches of mulberry paper being secured to the reverse of a painted linen textile using a thick paste of 15% w/v Klucel G® in industrial methylated spirits applied by brush with good results (figure 5).

textile_group_cci_conference_2011_8.jpgFrançoise Michel, (Swiss National Museum, Swizerland), familiarised participants with Funori and JunFunori, two consolidants based on red algae. Not only did these products help consolidate flaking or powdery painted surfaces they can be used as cleaning agents – two for the price of one! (Figure 6)

R. Scott Williams, (Analytical Chemist and Conservation Scientist, CCI), explained the analysis of adhesives and tapes using Mid and Near Infrared (IR) spectroscopy. He explained the importance of achieving accurate spectra in order to determine if this technique can be used as a non-invasive analytical technique to assess the composition of adhesives and tapes on objects. Around 35 demonstrations were on offer as 30 minute slots and a colourful time table was issued to plan the day to suit your interests. It worked wonderfully!

At the outset of the conference Velson Horie concluded his introduction with a message that the conference itself seemed to underline ‘conservation professionals have a responsibility to spread their expertise widely’.

The conference provided an invigorating platform for a broad spectrum of ideas to be presented, allowing theoretical and practical discussions to take place. It seems evident that the use of adhesives and consolidants in conservation continues to be an area of learning and evaluation; there is no definitive answer. An open mind when balancing the risks and benefits of the use of consolidates and adhesives is necessary. Symposium 2011 enhanced my knowledge and awareness of the impact such treatments can have on objects.


Who: Katy Smith, Cloth Workers Textile Conservation Intern, Victoria & Albert Museum
What: ICON Textile Group Visit to The People's History Museum 
Where: The People's History Museum, Manchester
When: May 23rd 2011

The People’s History Museum re-opened in February 2010 following a £12.5 million redevelopment project. The collection of banners is the largest in the world, currently exceeding 400, gathered from trade unions, political campaigns and labour organisations. The museum houses the first known trade union banner, dating from 1821 it belonged to the Liverpool Tinplate Workers. The museum continues to collect, with contemporary banners and flags from recent political campaigns such as the Stop the War coalition.

The new galleries have been designed to showcase atextile_group_image_phm_2_1_.jpg range of these banners, some of which are very large, many are double-sided, and all but the most fragile are presented on open display. The re-fitted building includes a purpose-built textile conservation studio, dedicated to the treatment of banners and flags. An additional feature is a large window into the galleries, through which the museum visitors can observe the conservator’s activities.

Our study day was three-fold: an opportunity to have a tour of the museum, guided by Vivian Lochhead;  a presentation by Anne French on methods of display used at the Whitworth Art Gallery; and a look around the textile conservation studio and the objects currently undergoing treatment.

Vivian gave us an interesting and thought-provoking walk through of the galleries, discussing the display materials, the installation process, and the various problems that had been encountered and overcome along the way. We heard lots of great advice on the mounting of banners and flags, some of which are stitched to boards, others hung from poles. We heard about the conservation treatments of some of the banners on display, and the process of their installation where floor space was not at a premium.

Anne French then showed us the techniques that she has developed at the Whitworth Art Gallery for displaying flat textiles. She explained the constraints faced by small museums in terms of time and resources, and how they have worked hard to overcome them. With a system of interchangeable bases, poles, and cup hooks to quickly and effectively display flat textiles on rollers.

We finished the afternoon with a look around the textile studio at the objects currently undergoing conservation. Leanne Tonkin explained the treatment of a Printer’s banner, which had large aretextile_group_image_phm_1_.jpgas of loss and was undergoing an adhesive treatment, with a Beva film on Stabiltex, applied only to the background linen but not to the areas of oil paint.

We learnt about the different challenges faced by both historic and modern materials, the restoration which banners have often undergone in their lifetime, and the various conservation approaches.

The People’s History Museum has an outstanding collection of beautiful banners and flags, which provide interesting and challenging work for the textile conservators.

We all thoroughly enjoyed our visit, and took away a few new ideas, and a lot of food for thought.
Thank you very much to Vivian Lochhead, Anne French and Leanne Tonkin for a fascinating day out.


Who: Sarah Glenn, Textile Conservator, Victoria & Albert Museum
What: ICON Textile Group Upholstery Workshop
Where: Hampton Court Palace
When: November 18th-19th 2010

This two day Back to Basics workshop that took place at Hampton Court Palace  was delivered by Lesley Wilson, a freelance upholstery conservator.  The course was designed as an introduction to upholstery for conservators, to extending their range, inform decisions when preserving and presenting an upholstered object and to enable conservators to undertake treatments.

The main aims of the workshop were to
1.  Identify structures, materials, fillings and fixings
2.  Recognise hand and machine made elements
3.  Recognise the degradation of frames and structures
4.  Understand terminology and methods for recording upholstery
5.  Evaluate the suitability of in situ and/ or intervention treatments
6.  Be able to select a method for removing fixings

Day 1
After introductions, Lesley began by giving a brief history of upholstered furniture, using examples from her work in the field.  The workshop focussed on chairs and did not cover beds, as time was unfortunately too short.  A short discussion followed the session.
The afternoon consisted of a group exercise in Hampton Court Palace itself.  It was a great privilege to be able to go behind the ropes and examine furniture from four rooms in the palace, each with very different examples of upholstered furniture.  The group split into four smaller groups and examined the chairs in each room, with the help of conservators from the Hampton Court studio, documenting and recording information, and comparing each piece.
The session ended on return to the seminar room, where the group compared notes and Lesley took us through our findings.

Day 2
The second day began with a practical session.  In our groups from the previous day, we were asked to examine four chairs in turn and deconstruct each to reveal the various layers of upholstery (Figures 1 and 2).  This gave us the chance to use the specialist tools for removing tacks and nails and get an idea of the construction (Figures 2 and 3).  

 Figure 1.  Workshop participants investigating the structure of a chair Figure 2.  Beginning the investigation of the upholstery layers Figure 3.   Upholstery layers

This enabled us to piece together a history of the upholstery and whether the chair had been recovered in the past (Figure 4).

For example, one chair had been upholstered on the back as well as the seat, but by removing the upholstered layers, it was revealed that wooden spacers had been added to the back frame and that no padding was intended to go there originally. A practical demonstration of basic webbing followed, with the opportunity to practice on frames. This part of the day proved very noisy, but gave participants an idea of just how taut the tape has to be and also just how much pressure the wooden frame is put under (Figure 5).  




Figure 4.  The frame often reveals whether the seat has been recovered in the past through identification of tack holes
 Figure 5.  Attaching webbing to a frame using a bat style web stretcher and tacking in place  

The afternoon session began with a talk on conservation treatments carried out by Lesley over the course of her career as an upholstery conservator, using examples from the V&A and the National Trust amongst others.

The following discussion focussed on treatment methodologies and the changing fashions of interventive treatments for upholstered objects.  For example, the remit of any conservator varies from institution to institution, and alters again for those in private practice.  The level of intervention may be subject to fashions in practice as well as being influenced by the criteria available to the conservators.  Where ten years ago the level of treatment may have been greater, including the removal of layers, contemporary practice may now be about doing a minimum of treatment.  The level of treatment is, as always, subject to funds and time. 

The workshop was a great way to introduce the methods and issues surrounding upholstery conservation.  Both the discussions and the practical elements of the two days were illuminating and participants felt much more equipped should they be faced with an upholstered object in the future.
Many thanks to Lesley Wilson, Maria Jordan, The ICON Textile Group and all at Hampton Court Palace for organising the workshop.


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