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​WUDPAC Class of 2020 student Joanna Hurd painting replica finials (left) and mending losses with nylon netting (right). Images: Virginia Whelan.

​WUDPAC Class of 2020 student Joanna Hurd was recently part of a team — led by alumna and textile conservator Virginia Whelan (WUDPAC 1997) of Filaments Conservation Studio — working to preserve George Washington's field tent for the new Museum of the American Revolution. The project was featured in an article in The New York Times entitled "Where George Washington Slept (Perhaps Not Well)." From that article by Judith Dobrzynski:


The linen marquee was the office and living quarters for George Washington during much of the Revolutionary War — “the first Oval Office,” noted R. Scott Stephenson, the vice president of collections, exhibitions and programming at the museum, which will open on April 19, two blocks from Independence Hall.

Conservators, engineers and museum officials had spent years working toward this moment, the realization of a dream that began in 1909 when an Episcopal minister, hoping to build a museum, bought the tent from a daughter of Robert E. Lee. . . .

​WUDPAC Class of 2020 student Joanna Hurd and team members during installation of the field tent at the Museum of the American Revolution. Images: Virginia Whelan.

Readying it for display was complex, even for Virginia Whelan, a textile specialist who has conserved a cotton shawl worn by Gandhi and the coat Franklin D. Roosevelt wore at Yalta, among other artifacts. A one-square-yard piece was missing entirely, probably cut up at some point for souvenirs. The linen bore about 550 jagged holes, ranging in size from a thumbnail to a couple of playing cards. And it had stains. “I wondered if someone spilled their grog, or is it sweat?” Ms. Whelan said. “Or did it come from candlelight?”

Wearing a thimble but no gloves, Ms. Whelan layered fine, nearly invisible netting over and under each hole, then used polyester thread finer than human hair to stitch around the damage to prevent further fraying. For large tears and the missing piece, she worked with the faculty of Philadelphia University’s textile design department to make high-resolution images of the fabric, which were printed on polyester with a digital inkjet printer. . . .


To read the full article, click here. The tent project is the recipient of a 2017 Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Award. Learn more here.

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WUDPAC Class of 2020 student Joanna Hurd worked with alumna Virginia Whelan to preserve the general's field tent for the new Museum of the American Revolution.

WUDPAC Class of 2020 student Joanna Hurd worked with alumna Virginia Whelan to preserve the general's field tent for the new Museum of the American Revolution.

8/29/2017
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  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489
  • art-conservation@udel.edu