39th Annual Meeting – Textiles Afternoon Session, Wednesday, June 1, When a Silk Flag is Dust and They Still Want to Exhibit It, Helen Alten, Northern States Conservation Center

The subtitle of Helen’s presentation was “Or be careful what you bid on”. ┬áHelen was faced with the dilemma of finding a solution to being asked to stabilize an object for exhibition even though its condition was so poor that she described it as at the end of its life. Helen had already bid on and secured the contract for a Civil War silk flag while it was still pressure mounted in the oak frame in which it had been displayed for decades. Her suggestion that the flag be stabilized for storage and not exhibited upon discovering its fragile condition after removing it from the frame, was not acceptable to the curator. Helen went on to describe the treatment undertaken to stabilize the flag which included cleaning with Groomstick, an adhesive treatment, and a padded board. The reverse of the flag was not cleaned because the fragile condition and large size of the flag( 47 x 81 )inches made the prospect of turning the flag to clean problematic. Helen described using silicon release paper to gently move the flag when needed.

Compromise between best solution and practical solution…storage vs. display. It would have been interesting to discuss this case study as an ethical issue- it must occur with some frequency in private practice- when and how can back out of treating an object? what other compromises or options might have been possible? did they consider cleaning to raise pH and pressure mounting with more appropriate materials? Has anyone pressure mounted a flat textile of this size. Helen mentioned how heavy the previous mount was.