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News Student Blog: Philadelphia Museum of Art

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​Custom-dyed nylon bobbinet is folded in half and stitched to encase the bottom hem of the silk lining of the Schiaparelli coat before it is rejoined with the exterior fabric. The net will protect loose threads along the bottom and will prevent new damage to this fragile area. (Images: Martina Ferrar)

The first six months of my third year as a WUDPAC fellow will be spent in the textile conservation lab at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The museum was founded in 1876 and its comprehensive collection includes more than 30,000 costume and textile objects that represent cultures from around the globe and across centuries. I’ve had the opportunity to see just how expansive the textile collection really is during my first few months at the museum while completing triage treatments on a 19th century bodice and an Indian sari, and have chatted with the other conservators in the lab about their treatments as they worked on Italian Renaissance velvets, embroidered silks, and fabulous 20th century garments.

A small section of colorfully embroidered silk has been preserved for centuries on the shaft of a 17th century ceremonial polearm, protected from light under a decorative tassel. The silk is fragile, but the delicate decorative stitching remains intact and gives an indication of the stunning and celebratory impression that the object, likely commissioned to celebrate a marriage, would have originally evoked. (Image: Jackie Peterson)

The focus of my first major treatment was the degraded silk lining of a 1936 Schiaparelli evening coat. Elsa Schiaparelli was an influential designer with close ties to the European Surrealists, known for her fanciful designs and innovative use of embellishments like sequins and embroidery. My treatment involved stabilizing the fragile lining of the coat by adding a support lining of silk crepeline, secured with an adhesive and further stabilized with stitching. Treatment will allow the garment to be safely exhibited without causing additional damage to the silk. Over the course of treatment, I’ve had the opportunity to expand my understanding of garment construction and to experiment with the use of adhesives in textile conservation, two topics that I began to explore during my second year in the WUDPAC program.

I’ve also had the opportunity to explore some of the textile components of the Carl Otto Kretzchmar von Kienbusch Collection of arms and armor, including decorative tassels and fragmentary embroidered silk on ceremonial polearms. A sampling of the polearm collection is on open display in close proximity to the public at all times, making it particularly challenging to protect the fragile silk tassels from dust accumulation and curious fingers. In addition to surface cleaning the textile elements of these impressive objects, I will be exploring methods of stabilization to offer some long-term protection to the susceptible silks.

The second half of my internship at the Philadelphia Museum of Art promises to be as exciting and challenging as the first half has been. In addition to my work with the polearms, I will also be assisting with a survey and the treatment of Chinese textiles in preparation for upcoming object rotations in the Chinese galleries, slated for renovation in the coming years.

An elaborately knotted tassel on a 17th century ceremonial halberd is gently surface cleaned with a soft brush and low-suction vacuum to remove accumulated dust. (Images: Debra Breslin)

Through these experiences I know that I will continue to grow as a conservator, and I’m looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that the rest of my third year will present!

-- Jackie Peterson, WUDPAC Class of 2018

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In this blog post, WUDPAC Class of 2018 Fellow Jackie Peterson talks about her internship projects in the textile conservation lab at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

​In this blog post, WUDPAC Class of 2018 Fellow Jackie Peterson talks about her internship projects in the textile conservation lab at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489