Textile Conservation: Advances in Practice

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Textile Conservation: Advances in Practice demonstrates the development in the role and practice of the textile conservator and captures the current diversity of textile conservators’ work.

The book focuses on four major factors which have influenced development in textile conservation practice since the 1980s: the changing context, an evolution in the way conservators think about objects, the greater involvement of stakeholders, and technical developments. These are all integral to effective conservation decision-making.

• Includes case studies from the UK, USA and mainland Europe and Asia
• Assesses the conservation of objects in some of the world’s major cultural institutions
• Highly illustrated in full colour to show the effect of conservation in practice

Textile Conservation is a reference manual for textile conservators, textile conservation students and museum and heritage professionals.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book is a welcome appraisal of textile conservation practice in the UK and USA today and is a great resource for textile conservators, providing substance for reflection on our practice. The editors acknowledge the challenges that the profession has faced and the current economic climate and uncertainty makes this excellent publication all the more timely."


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780750667906
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 5/20/2010
  • Pages: 334
  • Product dimensions: 7.60 (w) x 9.80 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents


Editors' Preface Lynda Hillyer Hillyer, Lynda

Acknowledgements Lynda Hillyer Hillyer, Lynda

Picture Credits Lynda Hillyer Hillyer, Lynda

Contributors Lynda Hillyer Hillyer, Lynda

Part One: The Changing Context Lynda Hillyer Hillyer, Lynda 1

Chapter 1 Textile Conservation In The Heritage Sector Lynda Hillyer Hillyer, Lynda 3

Case Studies: Patricia Ewer Ewer, Patricia

1A The textile conservator's role in the project culture: three loan exhibitions Patricia Ewer Ewer, Patricia 13

1B Achieving access through collection care, conservation and display Louise Squire Squire, Louise 19

1C A volunteer tradition: the evolving role of volunteers in textile conservation at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Ann French French, Ann 25

1D Modern textile conservation at the Victoria and Albert Museum: roots, evolution and rapid changes Beth Szuhay Szuhay, Beth 30

1E Entrepreneurship and conservation Marion Kite Kite, Marion 37

1F Project planning and management Patricia Ewer Ewer, Patricia 43

Chapter 2 Treatment Options What Are We Conserving? Claire Golbourn Golbourn, Claire 53

Case Studies: Patricia Ewer Ewer, Patricia

2A Preserving information: two beds with textile hangings dating from the seventeenth century Patricia Ewer Ewer, Patricia 63

2B Conservation and connoisseurship Nicola Gentle Gentle, Nicola 69

2C Fit for a princess? Material culture and the conservation of Grace Kelly's wedding dress Linda Eaton Eaton, Linda 76

2D Ethnographic garments: Evolution of exhibition display in response to curatorial interpretation Bernice Morris Morris, Bernice 84

2E Institutional developments and their effect on conservation policies: the Cambusnethan Bog Burial Coat Christine Giuntini Giuntini, Christine 92

Chapter 3 Engaging Communities Helen M. Hughes Hughes, Helen M. 99

Case Studies: Patricia Ewer Ewer, Patricia

3A Partnership in the preservation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage at the National Museum of the American Indian Patricia Ewer Ewer, Patricia 108

3B Developing a short term intensive training course in textile conservation for non conservation museum professionals in Jordan Susan Heald Heald, Susan 115

3C The Esh Winning Miners' banner project conservation involvement in a community initiative Mika Takami Takami, Mika 123

3D Negotiation and flexibility: new challenges influencing the management of large, complex textile conservation projects: working in the public view Jim Devenport Devenport, Jim 130

Part Two: Technical Advances Maria Jordan Jordan, Maria 139

Chapter 4 Remedial Conservation Maria Jordan Jordan, Maria 141

Case Studies: Patricia Ewer Ewer, Patricia

4A The preparation of condition reports for costume and textiles at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Patricia Ewer Ewer, Patricia 152

4B Recording change: 1978-2008: the cleaning of a needlework' sampler Susan R. Schmalz Schmalz, Susan R. 163

4C The conservation of four 1760's chairs: revealing and reinstating original upholstery features during in situ treatment Barbara Lehrecke Lehrecke, Barbara 171

4D Advances in adhesive techniques the conservation of two Coptic tunics at the Victoria and Albert Museum Kathryn (Kate) Gill Gill, Kathryn (Kate) 181

4E The conservation and replication of the banner covered ceiling in the Stibbert Museum, Florence, Italy Lynda Hillyer Hillyer, Lynda 188

Chapter 5 Preventive Conservation Mary Westerman Bulgarella Bulgarella, Mary Westerman 197

Case Studies: Frances Lennard Lennard, Frances

5A Preventive conservation at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Frances Lennard Lennard, Frances 204

5B Preventive conservation solutions for textile collections Patricia Silence Silence, Patricia 210

5C Working with synthetic fibres: the response of textile conservation to twentieth century dress Caroline Rendell Rendell, Caroline 221

Chapter 6 Scientific Developments Sarah Howard Howard, Sarah 227

Case Studies: Frances Lennard Lennard, Frances

6A Integrated multi-spectral imaging, analysis and treatment of an Egyptian tunic Frances Lennard Lennard, Frances 237

6B A study of the microenvironment within pressure mounts Ben Stern Stern, Ben 245

Part Three: The Future Masumi Kataoka Kataoka, Masumi 255

Chapter 7 Future Needs And Influences Masumi Kataoka Kataoka, Masumi 257

Case Studies: Patricia Ewer Ewer, Patricia

7A Defining features of the TCC's MA Textile Conservation programme 1999-2009 Patricia Ewer Ewer, Patricia 263

7B Decision making and the broadening of conservation boundaries: a personal perspective Frances Lennard Lennard, Frances 269

7C Teaching preventive conservation and textile treatments in Asia and Africa Zoe Roberts Roberts, Zoe 277

7D Modern and contemporary textile art: issues for textile conservators Julia M. Brennan Brennan, Julia M. 283

Select Bibliography Ann French French, Ann 291

Index Ann French French, Ann 299

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First Chapter

Textile Conservation: Advances in Practice


Copyright © 2010 Frances Lennard & Patricia Ewer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-08-094076-2

Chapter One

Textile conservation in the heritage sector

Frances Lennard, Patricia Ewer

Conservators have worked within a changing world since the pioneers in textile conservation established the profession. In both the UK and the USA political and cultural shifts have an impact on the way the 'heritage sector' operates, and this in turn affects the working environment of the conservator.

Developments in the sector and pressures on funding

In both countries the cultural sector is directly affected by the political swings inherent in an electoral system dominated by two main political parties, although cultural heritage is often low on the agenda. A separate ministry for arts and heritage, later renamed the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), was created in the UK in 1992, although the then Conservative government was criticized for its lack of a strategic vision for museums (Museums Journal, Dec. 1991: 7). The USA does not have a designated cultural department within the President's cabinet (although the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), created in 1982, administers the Save America's Treasures Program), but many cultural institutions rely on government funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and The Institute of Museum and Library Services. But, as in the UK, in the 1980s and 1990s the funds for these organizations were severely cut under the influence of a coalition within the Republican Party who felt the arts were eroding the moral fabric of the nation (Koch, 1998).

Pressures on central and local government spending have a direct impact on the heritage sector and on conservation jobs. In the UK, with a new emphasis on sponsorship and commercial enterprise to fund museum activities, reduced government spending during the 1980s, and particularly in the recessionary environment of the early 1990s, meant reduced funding for conservation in both national and local authority museums. In the USA, reduced government funding had a similar impact, although US cultural institutions are less reliant on the Federal government and have more avenues to explore such as regional, state and local government funding as well as money from independent foundations, corporate and individual giving. After the crisis of the late 1980s institutions broadened their sources of funding, developing endowments (Farrell & Marshall, 1999) and expanding marketing and retail services. Even large government conservation projects such as the conservation of the Star-Spangled Banner were made possible by a combination of federal and corporate funding (Thomassen-Krauss, 2001).

A re-evaluation of museum activities led to the restructuring of staff positions and an increased use of outside consultants (Zusy, 1998; Bryk, 2001). The trend towards enhanced collections care became more economically viable than remedial conservation treatments which could be outsourced to freelance conservators. Museums sought to attract more visitors as a way of increasing income. Museum News, the journal of the American Association of Museums (AAM), has regularly discussed marketing, visitor surveys, serving the public, creative partnerships and other topics intended to help museums increase visitor numbers (Kotler, 1999) (Figure 1.1).

In the UK a major change at the beginning of the twenty-first century brought museums, libraries and archives together under the strategic leadership of one body. Regional Museums, Libraries and Archives Councils replaced the former Area Museum Councils, which had employed conservators to provide conservation treatments and advice for smaller local museums. This caused the loss of several textile conservator posts, although some conservators have gone on to provide similar services on a freelance basis. The regional councils now have a more strategic and a less functional role, leaving small museums, many run by volunteers, with less access to conservation services. Although increased funding for regional museums from the government was welcomed following the 2001 report Renaissance in the Regions, it was felt that collections management and conservation were not given a high enough priority.

Effect on textile conservation posts

Although there were no major losses of conservation posts in the principal US institutions during the 1980s and 1990s, conservators' roles and responsibilities changed. In the UK the economic situation has led to a widening freelance culture. The last two decades have seen the growth of the 'project culture' where there are fewer permanent positions in museums (Ashley-Smith, 1999). Instead museums rely on short-term contract posts to service particular projects and place greater reliance on the private sector, while freelance textile conservators now spend a greater part of their time working for museums, both national and local, as demonstrated in Squire's case study. In the local authority sector conservation has been seen as a service which can be 'contracted out'. There was widespread concern at the loss of 35 jobs in Glasgow's museums service in 1996, with the loss of core curatorial and conservation posts. Hughes' case study in Chapter 2 demonstrates how institutional changes impacted on the conservation department.

This situation has led to an increasing degree of specialization. Freelance textile conservators usually spend the majority of their time carrying out treatments, including often lengthy remedial treatments for museums. Conservators working in small museums are often more concerned with overall care of the collection and with preparing objects for display, as illustrated in French's case study. Conservation departments in large museums tend to be occupied primarily with preparing large numbers of objects for exhibition. Volunteers have often been used as a way of increasing the amount of work that can be achieved by a limited number of staff. The case study by Gates and Szuhay, and French's also, demonstrate how this can be an effective strategy as a way of providing additional resources, although not as a substitute for professional staff.

There has been a big increase in 'blockbuster' exhibitions at institutions like the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, as museums have sought to attract visitors. These major exhibitions gather together large collections of objects, usually for short periods, and require sophisticated display mounting techniques (Reiter et al., 2005). They often go on to tour other venues around the world, with conservators called upon to courier exhibitions and take responsibility for objects' safety in transit and during mounting. Innovative techniques have been developed to allow the safe transport of costumes (Haldane et al., 2007). Kite's case study details the pressures on a busy textile conservation department and illustrates the employer's perspective on the project culture.

The growth in the number of conservators, including textile conservators, working privately in the UK has been significant and has encouraged a more businesslike environment (Figure 1.2). In 1993 Leigh, Head of the Conservation Unit of the Museums and Galleries Commission, urged textile conservators to cost their work more realistically: 'Most conservators do not charge nearly enough to properly cover overheads, or properly to reflect their true level of training and expertise' (1993: 20). This is also true in the USA, but in a sense it is related to competition; in both countries many deliberately keep their costs low to outbid their competitors. The Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (FAIC) has introduced on-line courses on basic business topics such as establishing a conservation practice, marketing and estimating through its Professional Development initiative. Members of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) and Specialty Group Conservators in Private Practice (CIPP) have for years discussed business issues such as competition, certification and qualifications. Ewer's case study demonstrates how the development of business skills is an important part of conservation practice.

The type of work undertaken by textile conservators has undoubtedly changed in response to budget constraints. Cussell (1998) suggested that conservators need to be more inventive when proposing treatments for private clients, where limited budgets do not permit lengthy treatments, but it is by no means the case that museum budgets allow unlimited time for major treatments either. Conservators have had to develop a range of management skills; Marko and Golbourn's case study outlines the project management protocols which many textile conservators employ in their daily work.

At the same time conservators have been operating in a more businesslike environment with the growth of competitive tendering practices. In 1993 Leigh reported that 'the tentacles of competition have reached the cultural heritage' (1993: 15). The United Kingdom Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (UKIC) produced Guidelines for the Commissioning and Undertaking of Conservation Work in 1998 to help conservators and clients manage this development. The tendering or bidding process for projects with US government agencies has become more uniformly structured.

Increasing access to collections

Conservation has always tried to balance the aims of preservation and access, but in the UK the balance has shifted in recent years from the preservation of collections towards their use. The National Action Plan for Museums in England, published by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council in 2009, did not mention conservation.

The Labour government, which came to power in 1997, promised more funding for museums, but in reassessing the purpose of museums it increased demands on the sector. The key priority for the new government was access (Ashley-Smith, 1999); funding was allocated specifically to help museums tackle social problems, 'recognising their potential for enhancing education, combating social exclusion and promoting urban regeneration' (Museums Journal, Sept. 1998: 25) through involving broader sections of the community. Anti-discrimination legislation also encouraged museums to become more accessible to the disabled. A new emphasis on performance management meant that funding was often linked to targets such as increased visitor numbers. The increased emphasis on access has had an impact on the work of the conservator and made the balancing act more complex.

In the USA the AAM recently initiated the Center for the Future of Museums, 'a think-tank and research design lab for fostering creativity and helping museums transcend traditional boundaries to serve society in new ways.' Museums & Society 2034: Trends and Potential Futures alerts museums to the implications of potential societal changes by the year 2034. Issues discussed include the effects on access of the ageing population and the increasing cost of preservation and storage compared with the decreasing cost of digitizing museum objects (Chung, Johnstone & Wilkening, 2008).

The access agenda has not just been taken up by museums. In the UK the National Trust, which opens its historic houses to the public, is also aiming to widen access to its properties beyond its traditional market, commonly perceived to be middle-aged and middle-class (Greenacre, 2005).

There is a continued tension between access and preservation. In December 2005, Heritage Preservation of Washington, D.C., released the results of its Heritage Health Index, the first comprehensive survey of the condition and preservation needs of US collections held in the public trust in archives, libraries, historical societies and museums. 'Museums ... devote more money to conservation but also have greater needs when it comes to conservation treatment.... They do significantly more to promote conservation awareness to their donors, trustees and the general public. Museums do less well than respondents as a whole, including libraries and archives, in cataloguing their collections and making them intellectually accessible' (Merritt, 2006). Thomas Campbell, Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, explained why it is important to increase access: 'engaging visitors who don't feel comfortable is one of the primary challenges ... [One of the] key experiences of visiting a museum is that moment of standing in front of an object ... Suddenly you're responding to something physical, real, that changes your own perspective. And great museums will always do that, as long we get people through the doors' (Cembalest, 2009).

Making collections accessible

Financial and political pressures on museums have impacted on the work of textile conservators in different ways. Museums are under pressure to make better use of their collections (Keene, 2005). Nightingale (2005-6) explicitly cited the desire to make more of the collection accessible as a factor in the development of a very large costume display at the Museum of London. Innovative methods of display, such as visible storage and the use of handling collections, also aim to make better use of museum objects; the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York introduced visible storage of objects in its Egyptian Galleries in the 1980s. These methods can increase the objects' exposure to risks from light or handling, but conservators' expertise can help to manage this tension through good documentation, appropriate packing, training in handling and good display design and mounting techniques.

Montague (2005) explained how digital photography of the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the publication of the images on the museum's website, provided greater intellectual access to curators, scholars and the general public, while limiting direct handling of the objects. In another example, Spicer et al. displayed replicas of flags from the State of Maine's collection in the Hall of Flags in the State House, where conditions were not optimal for fragile textiles but the traditional method of display was considered important. This successful solution allowed a rotating display of the conserved originals in a museum environment. In fact 'Rotation, interpretation and an on-line photo gallery dramatically increased public access to the collection' (2003: 79) (Figure 1.3).

Museums have exploited the development of the Internet in many ways. As well as promoting access to collections, a website has become an essential marketing and information tool. This has led to an exponential rise in visitor enquiries in the last 20 years; the Museum of London reported a rise in enquiries via its website from 100,000 in 1998, to 1.4 million in 2004 and to 6.4 million in 2007.1 If only a small proportion of these enquiries are requests to look at objects, this still represents a huge increase in access to collections, with implications for the treatment of objects and conservators' workloads. In 1996 Sykas (1996: 14) noted that, as a curator of a textile collection spending up to 20% of his time answering visitor enquiries, he was facing an increasing demand from students at all levels to access primary source materials, such as objects and documents.

The professional status of conservators

Conservation has expanded and developed as a profession since the 1980s. It now conforms more closely to the definition of a profession: it has formalized training routes with career-entry qualifications; it has professional membership organizations which subscribe to ethical codes and can levy sanctions against members who fail to meet required standards; it has a body of literature and a requirement for continuous professional development. Although there are competing pressures, textile conservators manage to successfully tread the fine line between being business competitors and professional colleagues; textile conservation is demonstrably a profession — there is no question but that information should be shared, and the results of research disseminated.

More conservators today enter the profession with a master's degree, although other routes still exist. Indeed this has become true to such an extent that there have recently been calls for entry levels to be broadened. Certainly there is a lack of social and racial diversity in the profession; increasingly there is a larger proportion of women in the conservation workforce, in common with personnel in museums more generally, perhaps in response to the low levels of pay in the sector. This is overwhelmingly the case within textile conservation. Although conservation has become a profession, the lack of funding in the sector means that conservators do not receive financial rewards commensurate with their levels of training and expertise.


Excerpted from Textile Conservation: Advances in Practice Copyright © 2010 by Frances Lennard & Patricia Ewer. Excerpted by permission of Butterworth-Heinemann. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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