By Nicole Giacomantonio, Textile Conservator.
The Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History has officially moved house! After 10 years in the Robertson building, the Centre has relocated temporarily to the Hunterian Collections Study Centre, awaiting the development of a more permanent lodgings, also in Kelvin Hall, scheduled for completion later in the year.
The move was made possible by the collaborative efforts of students and tutors in combination with copious amounts of Twinning’s Earl Grey tea and chocolate covered digestive biscuits. Throughout the month of March, the centre’s fabrics, chemicals, dyes, and client and reference collection objects were pest-checked, packed and wrapped for transport. The move revealed, like all moves do, the sheer number of things that can be cleverly organised to fit into a small space.
As a recent textile conservation graduate, I was offered the opportunity to return to the Centre to help coordinate the IPM and packing of the Karen Finch Textile Reference Collection and client objects in preparation for the move, to ensure that no collection-threatening pests would be transferred to the new location and they were secure to be moved by a team of art handlers. This job required inspecting every piece in the collection individually for evidence of pests.
During my two years as a student on the MPhil Textile Conservation programme, I was exposed to numerous examples of historic textiles and textile materials from the reference collection. Only during the pest-check did I realize that my previous exposure amounted to only a fraction of the treasures that the collection holds.
It took 7 full days for myself and a rotating team of student volunteers to complete the pest checking of the reference collection and client objects in the care of the Centre and I am delighted to confirm that the collection was pest-free!
We began with the numerous shallow trays containing smaller examples of textile techniques, finishes, materials, and treatments. Scraps of jewel tone velvets, fragments of tapestry and lace, and examples of shimmering gold embroidery spilled out of the boxes. We felt quite lucky to be able to examine each piece so closely.
As we moved on to inspecting the larger costume boxes the pest checking process slowed down dramatically. The three of us would peer across our socially distanced work stations to collectively gush over each piece that was unfolded to inspection. The range of materials and techniques was vast – from a hand embroidered Kashmiri robe to a synthetic pieced ‘crazy-quilt’ style synthetic jacket. The objects also varied in terms of condition and the process of unpacking and examining each challenged our observational and handling skills.
The hundreds of objects made their way to Kelvin Hall refreshed after receiving much deserved attention and appreciation, as well as some fresh acid-free tissue and re-packing. Once safely housed the rest of the ‘kit and caboodle’ followed on. The lab in its entirety was packed up during the 2 weeks that students were on Easter break, moved the 0.2mile to Kelvin Hall, and unpacked so that students could resume object treatment immediately after the break. Much like the reference collection objects, all of us at the Centre are starting off the next chapter feeling refreshed and energized, and we are all excited for what is to come next!
A note from Sarah – many thanks are due to Nicole, who has worked tirelessly over the last month to audit, pack (and unpack), rationalise, ‘squeak’ (ie find homes for things in small spaces), monitor and move first the objects and then the equipment and materials. She is truly indispensible: not least because she’s the only one who knows where anything is!