AIC’s 40th Annual Meeting, The Creation, Implementation, and Safety of Digitally Printed Fabrics in Textile Conservation: Where are We in 2012?, by Miriam Murphy

Author Miriam Murphy, Kress Conservation Fellow, Museum Conservation Institute, and National Museum of African History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution, presented a review of digital printing techniques and their use in textile conservation. This was a great refresher for colleagues who have not kept up with advances over the past decade, including your’s truly.

There are seven steps in producing digitally printed textiles. Step 1 is the digital capture, using scanner or camera. Often this is done by the conservator.

Step 2 is image processing, which is bet left to the printer in order to produce accurate results and avoid hair-tearing-out by the conservator.

Step 3 is color management, for which a color blanket is an essential tool. This is a full printout of colors on the chosen substrate, best compared to the source object in the same lighting as eventual display, ie the gallery or historic house. The small fee for this color blanket is well worth the investment.

Step 4 is the printing process. Although 600-700 dpi is available, 300 is usually plenty good. Printers can print up to 138″ wide and are often constrained only by the size of the image file.

Step 5 is choice of ink. Pigment based inks are the best choice because they require no pretreatment to the substrate and dry with heat. They are susceptible to breakdown in extreme light conditions and with abrasion and much washing. Dark colors can also be hard to achieve and contrast between adjacent dark colors is not always great. Museum conditions usually can accommodate these limitations.

Step 6 is choice of substrate. There are many, many available substrates, but cotton remains the best choice for museum applications. The weave structure of the original does not have to match because the image will provide this detail. Fabrics are available form the printer or from TestFabrics or Jacquard Inkjet Fabric Systems.

Step 7 is pre and post treatment assessment–I confess my notes are sketchy about this step.

If you are interested in speaking with digital print houses, Ms Murphy suggested several including Super Sampler, First2print, LTS Design Service Corp and Digifab, most of which are in NYC, I believe.

The benefits of digitally printed fabrics in museums has been outlined elsewhere, but highlights include quick turnaround, high resolution, and increasingly small dye runs. Why aren’t we all using this technology??!!

AIC’s 40th Annual Meeting, A Successful Treatment Method for Reducing Dye Bleed on a 19th-Century Sampler, by Katherine Sahmel and Laura Mina

Conservation of an 1832 Scottish sampler in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art was begun by Winterthur student Katherine Sahmel while an intern at the PMA and continues with FIT student Laura Mina, the current intern.

This outstanding sampler is part of the Whitman collection and is notable not only for its design but also for its provenience and the existence of photographs of the main building depicted in the embroidery. Prior to acquisition, the sampler was apparently washed causing extensive bleeding of green and red dyes. It has not been exhibited due to this unfortunate condition.

The dyes were analyzed by Ken Sutherland using FTIR, identifying Indigo Carmine as the probable blue component of the fugitive green dye.

Initial tests to reduce the dye bleeding with standard solvents and surfactants were not fruitful so Ms Sahmel applied the modular cleaning system developed by Richard Wolbers. Tests on small samples of threads from the back of the sampler led to the choice of a combined cleaning solution of EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetate)1% and TEA (triethylanolamine) .5%.

This system for cleaning requires extended contact with the textile, minimal wetting, and protection of surrounding embroidery threads. Cyclododecane was applied to the front and back adjacent embroidery yarns. A poultice of cleaning solution in methyl cellulose was then prepared and applied to the dye bleed. After treatment the methyl cellulose was removed and flushed with revcerse osmosis water before drying the treated area under suction.

The pros to this treatment was successful removal of dye bleed with minimal effect on adjacent threads. Cons include difficulty in clearing the methyl cellulose poultice and the high ph of the cleaning solution on the wool threads. When Laura Mina took over the project she modified the poultice to use agaros gel, which is easily prepared and removed. The cleaning solution was adjusted to add more TEA.

This research has wise applications in textile conservation, and sampler conservation in ap[rticular. It is non hazardous and requires no fume hood. Stay tuned for an exhibit of the Whitman Samplers coming to the PMA.

AIC’s 40th Annual Meeting, Repair of 20th-Century Leavers Lace, by Annie-Beth Ellington

Lever’s Lace is a type of machine-made lace that provides a similar product to hand-made bobbin lace. Its structure and relatively low-status in museum collections have made it an uncommon target for conservation treatments. The author’s graduate thesis research for her MA at the University of Rhode Island both brings to light this historic textile and provides guidance in how to undertake stabilization of damaged samples.

In 1813 John Lever modified a loom to make Lever’s Lace, and subsequent addition of Jacquard technology in 1849 increased the range of the product. It was imported to the US in 1910 to make mosquito netting and other simple structures, eventually creating the decorative lace familiar to many people. Lever’s lace consists of a ground of twisted warps. Patterns or ornaments outlined by a heaver thread are accomplished with bobbins.

The author experimented with mock-ups of the structure to better understand the challenges of repairs. She then tensioned a piece of damaged lace over a black fabric-covered board. A photocopy of the pattern area was inserted beneath to act as a guide. Using a microscope, she floated 40 denier nylon threads across areas of loss following the pattern. The author quickly found that intervention could cause additional unraveling of damages areas, so she changed to using Jade adhesive on broken thread ends prior to repairs.

Repair of Levers Lace is slow and dyeing nylon thread to match colors would only add to the project time. However with further development this technique will guide future conservators.

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.