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.

AIC’s 39th Annual Meeting- Texiles Session, June 1, “On-line Access to and Preservation of a Multi-Component Sketch Collection” by Marjorie Jonas

This talk discussed the re-housing and development of a database for a collection of design sketches by Bonnie Cashin within the FIT Archives and Special Collections (SC) at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT).  Bonnie Cashin was a 20th Century fashion designer that designed clothing and accessories with this collection of sketches representing her work for the Phillip Sills Company.   More than 4000 sketches with accompanying fabric swatches and ephemera had been pasted into a spiral bound sketchbooks originally, but various sketchbooks had been unbound with the pages loose in boxes and other books remained intact.   The collection had only minimal catalog information and this along with its various housings made its use difficult and required unnecessary handling.  For this project, the sketch books were unbound because many of the plastic bindings were failing and pages were sticking to each other.  All sketch book pages were re-housed, first into 3 ml polyethylene bags and then archival boxes.

The main point of the talk was describing a finding aid that was developed to improve access to the collection and reduce the amount of handling the sketch pages encounter.  This finding aid is an online database with 10 categories that includes catalog and biographic information, with hyperlinks to images of the pages and associated materials.  For this finding aid each sketchbook page was given a unique number based on the ISAD(G) archive numbering standard.  The database is keyword searchable through the FIT library site.   This project has improved access to this collection while reducing handling and the searchable database concept is being used for other archive collections at FIT.

AIC’s 39th Annual Meeting – Textiles Session, June 1, “Uses of the fiber Reference Image Library” by Katherine Jakes

This was a very interesting and informative talk about the development of the Fiber Reference Image Library (FRIL) and web site ( at Ohio State University and some of the ways it is being used. The concept was originally conceived to be an interdisciplinary and internationally developed library of fiber images but lack of funding made a large scale project impossible. Katherine Jakes then utilized the resources of Ohio State University’s Historic Costume Collection to create a scaled down version of the original vision and hopes that it will be used as a model for other institutions to do the same.

The website has photomicrographs of longitudinal fibers in both transmitted and polarized light for natural and synthetic fibers. Also included are photomicrographs of degraded fibers. All the images are linked to information about the object from which the fibers were taken, including photos, and there are links to other objects in the Historic Costume Collection that have the same fiber. In the future Ms. Jakes hopes to add more fibers, including feathers, archaeological material, and enhance the depth of the links.

Ms. Jakes also highlighted some of the outreach that has been done using the resources of the website. The first was a program developed for Middle and High school students that uses garments in the Historic Costume Collection from famous designers as an opening to discuss fiber properties and how that relates to the designers fabric choice. Also discussed is how microscopy is done. The second outreach project that Ms. Jakes talked about was dating fabric found with human remains on an island. The location and other items found on the island has raised the hope that these remains were Amelia Earhart but the fabric was polyester which wasn’t produced until the 1950s therefore too late for it to be her.