Made of buckskin lined with cotton calico, the Oglala Lakota Sioux boy's vest that this year became a treatment project for Winterthur/ University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC) Fellow Jackie Peterson is decorated with dyed porcupine quills, colored beads, metal sequins and ribbons. Jackie, a textile major, quickly realized that the vest's many components meant she would need to learn more about both textile and object conservation as she developed her treatment plan.
The late-19th century vest was acquired by western collector Amos H. Gottschall, possibly in the 1890s, during a visit to South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation. The vest serves as a wonderful historic document; some of the materials like the porcupine quills and the buckskin are traditional to Native American Plains cultures, but other materials like the synthetic dyes used to color the porcupine quills and the cotton lining illustrate an active exchange of materials with Western traders.
The vest is in sound structural condition, though heavily soiled and stained on the front. Testing suggested that the yellow color of the vest is due to the presence of an unbound pigment, which makes it virtually impossible to remove the surface dirt without also removing original colorant. Additionally, the buckskin was prepared with a traditional brain-tanning method that makes it sensitive to both water and solvents. These sensitivities mean that the soiling and staining cannot be removed without loss of material original to the vest. Jackie’s treatment therefore had to balance surface cleaning of the beadwork and quillwork while accepting the stained appearance of the buckskin.