AIC’s 39th Annual Meeting- Textiles Session, June 2, “The “Observer Effect” in Conservation: Changes in Perception and the Treatment of a Man’s Silk Suit, c. 1745” by Laura Mina

This talk was in interesting treatment case study of an 18th c suit, including some detective work about what has happened to it throughout its history.   Ms. Mina also attempts to draw parallels between treatment decisions made throughout the history of the piece, or conservation decisions in general, and the “observer effect” from quantum mechanics.

The suit is from the Museum of the City of New York collection and consists of a coat and waistcoat but no breaches.  The suit was a very fashionable garment when it was created in 1745 and, as frequently happened with beautiful and expensive clothing, it was sold and resold many times.  With each new owner, alterations occurred to suit their needs, creating a confusing mix of stitches and patches.  Finally the suit was donated to the Museum of the City of New York in 1938.   Even then it appears the suit wasn’t spared alteration, but in the name of restoration.   Ms. Mina then described the treatment she undertook and part of her rational for the treatment.  This piece required patience to excavate its many layers of interpretation.