(2002-2004) Funded Conservation: Silver Studio Textiles

Between 2002 and 2004 we undertook a major conservation project on the textiles in the Silver Studio Collection.

The Silver Studio textile collection is important because it offers a unique perspective on the ways in which textiles were used in ‘ordinary’ domestic interiors from the late nineteenth to the mid twentieth centuries.  The textiles reflect the many changes that took place in British homes over this time.

overfilled box of Silver Studio textiles

overfilled box of Silver Studio textiles

The collection contains samples of textiles designed by the Silver Studio, and examples of the work of other designers/manufacturers which were kept as design references.

Until 2002, the Silver Studio textile collection was stored in over-filled and acidic cardboard boxes.  The poor storage of these items meant that they were inaccessible to students, researchers, museum staff or the public.

Phase One

In 2002, a small grant of £3,360 from the London Museum Agency (LMA) enabled us to undertake a survey of the textile collection, highlighting conservation priorities and investigating potential storage solutions.

Phase Two

Our priorities were to physically preserve the textile collections for the future; to allow for safe and easy handling of the textile collection by staff and the public, and to increase access to the textile collection. In 2003, we received a Collections Care Grant of just over £2,700 from LMA, which paid for acid free cardboard rolls, archival quality polyester sleeves and archival boxes of various sizes.

We placed some of the textiles in inert polyester sleeves and stored them in acid free boxes or folders, and we also photographed everything. The over-sized textiles were rolled onto acid-free tubes covered in acid-free tissue and unbleached calico. Each rolled textile was protected with an outer Tyvek® wrapper, and given identification labels showing a small image of the textile.

This work was carried out by MoDA’s conservation staff, with help from Camberwell College of Arts students.

Phase 3

Silver Studio textiles after conservation

Silver Studio textiles after conservation

As the result of these preliminary phases, the AHRB (now the AHRC) generously awarded us £20,000 to employ an expert Textile Historian for one year.  Keren Protheroe created full catalogue records for previously un-accessioned textiles, and upgraded existing records with new research.

We added digital images of all textiles alongside the new full catalogue information on MoDA’s database.  We were grateful to receive a further £5,000 from the AHRC Project Fund in 2005 to enable us to complete the project.

Outcomes

This project had a major impact on the use of the collection for teaching and research. Catalogue records are now full and accurate and enable the user to trace links between objects as well as to locate deeper information about manufacturers, materials, techniques and styles. Items can now be handled safely and easily without risk of damage. The database is also available to search online – rendering the collection accessible to the national and international academic world as well as the wider public.
N.B  ALM subsequently became the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) which dissolved in 2o12.

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