Friday, 3 August 2012

Caring for Fragile Fabrics

These are three ribbon amulets from Bolivia, which were sent to Conservation for treatment. 

Flaking decoration (PRM 1985.52.1726)

As you can see, the gold decoration over the text was flaking off, so I had to consolidate it. This means fixing it more securely to the surface using an adhesive. I did this under the microscope, so that I could watch very carefully if any colours on the ribbon started running.

Stuck together (PRM 1985.52.1729)

Two of the ribbons were folded over on themselves and had become stuck where they'd been painted. I had to decide whether to attempt to open them up or leave them as they were.

I tried releasing them very gently using a scalpel and managed to unfold the crimson one, but the white one was much too firmly stuck and the action would have caused quite a lot of damage to it, had I continued trying. As we already had two from the same area with the same decoration, it seemed unnecessary.

PRM 1985.52.1727

They all have a small amount of ‘shattering’ which is when the fabric becomes brittle and falls apart. This is mainly at the centre of each ribbon around the painted text and image. To stop the fabric breaking apart, I gave it a backing of silk crepeline, which was dyed to the same colour as each ribbon. This was then placed over each break like a plaster.

Once treatment was completed each ribbon will need to be stored properly. It’s best if it doesn’t get folded, as over time folds become breaks, so I wrapped each ribbon around some conservation grade foam and interleaved it with some acid free tissue to prevent any more sticking problems in the future. I then made a couple of small boxes out of conservation grade corrugated plastic to stop them getting crushed.


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