North American Textile Conservation Conference

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by Frances Lennard, Senior Lecturer.

I have just returned from the North American Textile Conservation Conference  which takes place every other year, and was in New York this November. It is the only big international conference dedicated to textile conservation and is a great opportunity to catch up with current projects and research.  The presentations took place at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

This year’s theme was ‘Material in Motion’, an excellent broad topic to draw in contributions on a variety of subjects, and the speakers were truly international, coming from 11 different countries. One session I found particularly interesting was on the theme of ‘Movement from Within’ as it was relevant to my research interests in strain monitoring of tapestries. A presentation by Bernice Morris of Philadelphia Museum of Art and Laura Mina of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York discussed a programme of testing knit fabrics, in order to safely display a collection of Patrick Kelly knit dresses. Anna Beselin of the Museum für Islamische Kunst in Berlin discussed the ‘Berlin system’ of hanging heavy carpets and talked about the need for further research in this field – I hope that our programme of research will help to provide information on different ways of displaying tapestries, carpets and other heavy textiles.

I felt that a big theme was technology – as a conference delegate, it was interesting to reflect on how our expectations have changed over the last few years.  Presentations were often enlivened by adding in video, and we were frequently directed to find further information online. Several of the presentations showed how new technology enhances the experience of the museum visitor and this will have a big impact on the way graduates work in future. Glenn Peterson of the Costume Institute made a fascinating presentation about the use of technology to deliver additional information about the garments, including micrographs and x-radiographs, in the recent Charles James exhibition. He explained how this enabled a much deeper level of engagement on the part of visitors to the exhibition.

It was great to catch up with several CTC and TCC graduates at the conference, and they were well represented. CTC graduate Charlotte Gamper gave a presentation on her work with colleagues at Historic Royal Palaces on the suitability of Fosshape™ as a mount material. Other CTC graduates Emma Schmitt and Zoe Lanceley, presented posters on work they had carried out as students, on examining the working properties of agarose gels and the conservation of a 1950s handbag, respectively. Graduate Stella Gardner co-presented a poster on unobtrusive display solutions for working clothes in the Barbara Hepworth Studio in conjunction with Alison Lister and Abigail Tyler of Textile Conservation Ltd.

The next NATCC will be held in Mexico City in 2017.

I’m grateful to The Clothworkers’ Foundation, The Anna Plowden Trust and the University of Glasgow for funding to support my attendance at the conference.




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