Textile Conservation & Tent Building

Written by Lindsey Mackay

We awoke to a beautiful, sunny day after two foggy mornings. Mela, Nedi and I headed straight to the Ethnographic Museum to pick some objects from storage for conservation treatments. In the meantime, the group were in Babameto to hear from Charley and Azra about conservation principles for display and setting up a conservation workshop. Mela then gave a lecture on crease removal.

After lunch we all headed to the Museum for demonstrations on crease removal and surface cleaning. I’ve learned a lot from textile conservators over the last few days – not least that they’re a very handy bunch to have around. If you’re ever stranded on a desert island you should hope that a textile conservator is stranded along with you – they’re extremely inventive. They make all sorts of contraptions from very little, like this humidification tent fashioned from nothing but some plastic and masking tape.

This tent is used to raise the humidity in a closed space which can make textile creases relax. Perfect for someone too lazy to iron, you might think. In fact, ironing is not advised for historic textiles as it can damage the objects.

The group had the chance to work on some textiles and clean them with a museum vacuum, brushes and some smoke sponge. This activity sparked some interest in visitors who were keen to see what they were doing. We also gained a new participant with the eight year old son of one of the museum staff taking an early interest in conservation.

The group were then tasked with assessing the conservation needs of various objects, a display room and the storage room. Back at Babameto, the group brainstormed the possible tasks required to improve the conditions of these objects and rooms. They were then split into different groups to tackle these tasks over the coming days.

The final session of the day was set aside for the two interpretation groups to make a start on their booklets. These drafts will be used and tested with visitors to the museum on Tuesday. They will form the basis of two interpretation booklets that Heritage without Borders will create for the museum.