AIC’s 40th Annual Meeting, Recovery and Conservation of the Textile Collections at the National Museum of Music, Alina Vazquez De Arazoza

Alina Vazquez de Arazoza is one of 20 Latin American colleagues who were able to join us at the 40th Annual AIC meeting thanks to funding from the Getty. Ms Vazquez requested that our colleague Amparo Ruedas read her paper to the TSG.

In 1971, a former Colonial mansion located in Havana was converted to the National Museum of Music. It contains, among its diverse collections, costumes of prominent Cuban musicians and banners from musical groups. The majority of collection dates to the 20th century, but several important 19th century items are also preserved. Among these is the glove of Perucheo Figueredo, the author of Cuba’s national anthem, and great great grandfather of Amparo Ruedas, giving added meaning to this presentation.

The renovation of the museum building provided the opportunity for the author to survey the collection, undertake conservation treatments prior to rehousing and exhibition, and do biographical research into the artists represented by the collection. She worked in collaboration with CENCREM (Centro Nacional de Conservacion, Restauracion y Museologia) which provided a facility and analytical assistance, all at no charge!

In general the collection was in fair condition. Items were dirty, distorted from poor storage, and dry, despite the tropical climate and lack of adequate environmental conditions. Humidity had taken a toll on some items, however, as seen by corroded metal trims, associated staining, some water damage with dye migration, and some insect damage. Much of the collection also exhibited yellowing.

The author undertook analysis of items in order to prepare a proposal for conservation. SEM results confirmed fiber content of organic and metal components. Much of the collection is hand made, though industrially produced items and commercial labels were noted and researched. The presence of prior repairs were documented, as well as types of adhesives that had been employed. Parameters of the conservation project were set out identify which textiles needed surface cleaning, aqueous or solvent cleaning, which prior repairs would be reversed.

What impressed me most about Ms Vazquez’s and her project are the advanced level of treatment skills, storage and conservation materials, analytical tools and connoisseurship compared to other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean that I have visited. This conservation project was equal in all ways to similar projects undertaken in the United States, which happily dispelled my notions of the ability of Cuban conservation professionals to achieve a high level of skill and accomplishments.