Woody Intership: Colonial Williamsburg Week 7

The highlight of Week 7 for me was the intern tour of the textile storage area and conservation lab. We learned about how when the Curatorial building was under construction, special care was given to how the building would be structured to fit the needs of each individual department. In the textile department, Kim Ivy, curator of textiles, actually got a say in how she wanted the textiles to be stored. The room was filled with large carts that had a buttoned down canvas covering the front to project the objects from dust. Once the canvas was peeled back, it revealed large trays containing objects from bed spreads to sheets. Mrs. Ivy explained that these objects were not used to furnish the historic homes in Colonial Williamsburg, but were used in order to make replicas for the homes. We then moved to a section of similar storage that contained only quilts. Quilts that signed by the women that made specific patches and quilts that were made straight from a pattern book. The range in dates and geographic location was very expansive. We moved on to smaller storage units that contained smaller, more delicate pieces of work like samplers and school girl art. One thing that I loved so much in textiles and especially in the needlework, is Mrs. Ivy and her love for these objects that she cares for. You could tell that Mrs. Ivy really cared for a treasured every story behind each sampler in her collection, and I think that made the tour even more special. My favorite part of the textile storage area was all of the sewing instruments. Needles, needle cases, thimbles, everything you can image and more, and it was beautiful. We got to the conservation lab where we learned how fragile this old material is and preserving it is very tedious and precise work. Because material is so fragile it can only be on display in the museum for a certain amount of time with as little light exposure as possible. In the museum they have motion censored lights so that if no one is in the exhibit the lights turn off to protect the materials. Due to the light sensitivity textiles are not exhibited long and on a constant rotation, so the conservation lab stays very busy. Most people do not think extensively about cleaning hundreds of years old material. Our natural instinct is to place objects in the wash machine. The textile conservation lab has a garment bath tub that soaks objects that need to be “washed.” However, conservationists try to minimize the need for these baths because of the damage that can occur to the object in the drying process. Everything is rather scientific when formulating an agitate to remove a certain stain without damaging the original cloth. All in all I gained a much greater perspective of what curators and conservationists do to protect our historical treasures.