THE CONSERVATION & ARCHAEOLOGY of TEXTILES AND RELATED OBJECTS
28 January, 2017
Venue: Friend's Meeting House, Friargate, York, YO1 9RL
Dr M.Faye Prior is a Collections Facilitator in the History Curatorial
Team at the York Museums Trust. The team are in charge of 30,000 costume or textile exhibits in York Castle Museum or the York Archive Store.
Assisting were Anni Shepherd, MA, and KJ Neun, MA Student in Public History at the University of York.
Dr Prior is particularly concerned with preventative conservation.
What can we do in museums to prevent infestations and discomposure from pollutants in the atmosphere?
What we can do in our homes with our textiles and when to call in a conservator?
Dr Prior talked about keeping textiles in a stable environment off the floor away from possible floods, direct heat and natural light. Acid free tissue paper should be used around the textiles and then stored in a box. Cover any metallic parts in tissue paper making sure the metal does not come into contact with any other areas of textile as this will cause rusting spots to appear. Acid free tissue paper absorbs pollutants in the atmosphere and turns brown and should be replaced regularly.
Organic scoured calico can also be used to wrap textiles safely.
Carpet beetle and its larvae eat the protein in fabrics. They can be easily cleared up using a vacuum cleaner from a carpet but no so easy from a costume.
Webbing clothes’ moths eat all natural textiles. These are hard to control in museum conditions as they cannot be treated with pesticides as these can cause more problems.
www.historyonics.com can help.
Dr prior went on to talk about Costume mounting for display purposes in a museum setting.
Whole costumes require a bespoke mount to be made that exactly replicates the shape of the garment when all its underpinnings are in place.
Costume mounting is a highly skilled profession requiring exact handling of very precious garments and making of suitable mounts.
York Museum currently has an exhibition called shaping the body where all these techniques can be seen.
Our afternoon speaker was Dr Simon Tomson, an expert in the fields of both Archaeology & Geology.
Dr Tomson spoke about evidence on manuscripts and artefacts found in the ground that can inform us of costume and textile fashion from as early as the 6th Century AD.
Manuscripts contain many drawings of people going about their everyday work they are drawn with jewellery swords and often garment fastenings.
Archaeological finds in Britain have uncovered enough evidence for us be able to build up a good picture of what Anglo-Saxons would have worn.
Cremation Urns from 4th -7th Century contain the metals of garment fastenings and multi coloured precious stones worn by the dead. Finds from the 5th Century in Lincolnshire include Girdle hangers, Hooks and eyes, belt buckles, cufflink clasps, combs, tweezers and elephant ivory purse handles.
Anglo Saxon grave archaeology has uncovered even more valuable information about where these things would have been worn depending on where they are found in the grave.
Annular Brooches are common finds and made from copper or bronze these would have been worn singularly to hold a cape in place or as a pair fastened together with a chain or textile.
In 6th Century Anglian graves gilded copper and garnet adornments have been found proving that people had traded and travelled between continents.
Anglo Saxon necklaces have been found with Millefiori glass, Byzantine enamelling and Roman coins
Other finds have included a 4 inch diameter quartz rock crystal that would hang from the waist and used for magnifying sunlight to make fire. Clasps have been found around the shin bone area in a male grave that would have held up his socks like a garter.
Textile survival from the 6th Century is rare and has only been found in a fossilised state on skeletons.
Excavations of weaving sheds have produced much evidence of how looms worked and the quantities of fabrics made and probably exported via trading routes across the world.
As a conclusion to the talk Dr Tomson explained that enough evidence had been found to accurately describe fashions of the 6th-10th Century.