Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Working with Exhibits

Blogger's Note: This semester students taking Care and Conservation of Textiles—a course offered through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Department of Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design—will share some of their experiences working with the International Quilt Study Center & Museum collection.

By Sarah Walcott

As part of our work in our Care and Conservation course, our class had the opportunity to work with Assistant Curator of Exhibitions Jonathan Gregory to de-install a remarkable piece from the Getting to Know You show. This quilt, a chintz applique from the Robert and Ardis James collection, required special exhibition accommodations due to its age, size, and condition.  

Chintz applique medallion quilt.
Ardis and Robert James Collection, IQSCM 1997.007.0688.

Jonathan devised a special slant board in order to display the quilt, which he explained as we helped to de-install the quilt. The combination of a hinged slant board and the standard hanging system, which uses slats and cords, allowed this 200 year old quilt to be safely exhibited without placing too much stress on the fragile fibers. The hinges were first detached from the wall, and then the entire board was moved to a table in order to remove the cords and slat, and finally the slant board itself, from the quilt. From there, the chintz quilt, along with the others from the Getting to Know You exhibition, would be moved to isolation for two weeks before being returned to collections storage.

Care and Conservation students prepare to de-install
a chintz quilt from Getting to Know You.

IQSCM Assistant Curator of Exhibitions Jonathan Gregory
explains the cord-and-slat hanging system used at the museum.

Special care which must be taken to properly store historic textiles, including temperature, humidity, and light controls, as well as integrated pest management. Many of these same concerns apply when exhibiting these textiles, as well as a host of others specific to exhibitions. Our hands-on experience in both collections and exhibitions affords us the opportunity to understand best practices as they actually function within the museum, in addition to the theoretical foundation we are gaining through course readings. The IQSCM works toward both cultural preservation and cultural education, and the care and conservation of the museum’s historic textile collection is integral to both those ends.

The International Quilt Study Center & Museum makes its academic home in the Department of Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design in the College of Education and Human Sciences.