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 Christi Coufal-Tuya
Sometimes museums have a tendency to feel like libraries- people speak in hushed tones and there is little action or movement. Though there are quiet days at the museum, anyone who has been to a Quilt ID Day or one of the First Friday events knows that Quilt House is not like that, but even those events are comparison to what goes on behind the scenes. Last week it was tools, and ladders, cherry pickers, lighting instruments, and more. Those of us in Care and Conservation class are lucky to be a part of it.
Our main topic of discussion in class last week was exhibition lighting. Lighting is crucial to an exhibition for a number of reasons including object care, visibility, and exhibition design. There is no point in putting on an exhibition if visitors can’t see the objects, and effective lighting helps to tie exhibits together and make objects stand out. The problem is that textiles are highly susceptible to damage caused by light exposure in terms of fading and embrittlement. UNL Historic Costume Collection #2010.003.058 (below) is a 1910’s dress that is in beautiful condition except for the extreme fading due to excess light exposure.
David Saunders, current vice president of the International Institute of Conservation and former conservation scientist at the National Gallery in London once said that “any light must be seen as a concession.” Curators and museum goers have a different perspective and want objects to be seen as clearly as possible. Museum standards for lighting textiles and paper objects recommend maximum light levels of 50 lux (or 5 footcandles) for short periods of time. The IQSCM uses light meters to check light levels, UV filters on the doors to block UV rays, and controls gallery lights with timed motion sensors. In addition, permanent collection objects can remain on display under optimum conditions for just 1 year in a 10-year period.
After our discussion we spread throughout the museum working on a variety of projects. We worked on vacuuming objects and accessioning new pieces.
We also worked on installing and lighting the second rotation of Art Quilts of the Midwest in the Pumphrey Family Gallery downstairs. While it appears simple, this can be a tricky space to light due to the low ceilings and the closeness of the tracks to the gallery walls.
We also got to look in on the recently opened Blue Echoes: Quilts by Shizuko Kuroha to replace a couple of wonky light fixtures. This is a gorgeous show curated by Marin Hanson is the first solo exhibition by a Japanese artist ever at the IQSCM and features art quilts with intricate patterning and antique Japanese indigo dyed textiles. It is only on exhibition through May 25, so make sure to stop in and see it! If you can’t make it in, you can read about it and view the online images (which are much better than my own) under the exhibitions tab on the main website.
This one, A Gift from the Sky (2013), is my personal favorite, and it is huge!
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.