As a teenager, Philip De Paola taught himself to sew and developed what he terms a “passion” for tailoring, as well as the excellent hand and visual skills tailoring requires. So it may have been no surprise when the current junior at University of Delaware, seeking a more hands-on way to study heritage and culture, switched majors from anthropology to art conservation after his freshman year.
This decision and Philip’s continuing interest in textiles led this year to a summer internship in the textile conservation lab at the Winterthur Museum working with Textile Conservator Laura Mina and Preventive Conservator William Donnelly. There, in addition to assignments that included treating needlepoints and making a petticoat for a dress on display, he became adept at what may be one of the least exciting but most important areas of art conservation – creating custom-sized housings. Their importance speaks to the concern that art and cultural artifacts in storage can be degraded or even destroyed by pests, dust, improper handling, changes in temperature and humidity, water leaks, smoke and/or fire or other occurrences too terrible to contemplate. A custom-sized box made completely of archival materials cannot protect an object, textile or painting from all of these possibilities, but it is the first step in assuring that the object is well-supported and protected while still allowing access for research.