What’s in the box?

1 09 2014
Securing Lid of Crate

Securing Lid of Crate

 

We are sending one of our star pieces of lace to Switzerland, where it will be shown at the Swiss National Museum, in an exhibition titled ‘The Tie. men fashion power’. The exhibition covers the evolution of the tie, from the seventeenth century to the present day. Our piece will be shown with examples from the Swiss National Museum’s comprehensive collection, and alongside objects lent from the Rosenborg Collection in Denmark, Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Musée des Arts décoratifs in Paris, and Museum of Modern Art in New York.

 

The Cravat in its packing crate

The Cravat in its packing crate

 

Our lace cravat with fetching blue ribbon is part of the Blackborne Lace Collection (2007.1.1.124). This huge assemblage of lace, one of the largest and most important in the world, was donated to The Bowes Museum in 2006 by the descendants of Anthony and Arthur Blackborne. They were 19th century lace dealers, and the collection includes their remaining stock, along with their study collection of historical lace.

 

Grinling Gibbons carving [W.181:1-1928] © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Grinling Gibbons carving [W.181:1-1928] © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Blackborne Lace cravat [2007.1.1.124]

Blackborne Lace cravat [2007.1.1.124]

The cravat is a reconstruction, made by historical costumier Luca Costigliolo, it brings together a panel of exquisite 17th century raised Venetian needlelace with a modern linen neck tie, and blue silk ribbon. The reconstruction draws inspiration from the famous Grinling Gibbons carving of a lace cravat, now in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Carved from limewood, it dates to c.1690, making it roughly contemporary.

Detail of lace panel

Detail of lace panel

 

Our Blackborne lace panel dates to 1665-85. It has a symmetrical design of leaves and flowers, developing from a central vertical motif. It is edged with a delicate triangular motif, and topped with a later bobbin-lace.

Detail of floral sprig

Detail of floral sprig

 

The cravat is now in the safe hands of our art handlers, and I will be travelling out to Zurich to meet it next week. My role is to unpack the crate, check the condition of the cravat, and liaise with the technical services team in creating a bespoke mount for it, before installing it into the display case.

The cravat is normally on show in our Fashion & Textile Gallery. It has also been displayed in the ‘In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion’ exhibition, which was shown at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace in 2013, and again at The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse in 2014.

Upon its return to the Bowes Museum in early 2015, we’ll be re-installing it into the Fashion & Textile Gallery for our visitors to enjoy.

Katy Smith, Textile Conservator

 





Meet Hannah Jackson, Assistant Curator of Fashion & Textiles

27 08 2014

I’m Hannah, Assistant Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the Museum. I am here for three years as part of a funded programme by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. I have a background in the History of Art and History of Dress, having studied at The Courtauld Institute of Art. My specialism resides in interwar dress and I have a particular interest in French fashion designers from the 1930s.

Hannah

Hannah

 

I’ve joined the team at The Bowes Museum to work behind the scenes on the fashion and textiles store and fashion gallery re-display for 2018. I will work alongside the Curator of Fashion and Textiles, Joanna Hashagen, and Textile Conservator, Katy Smith. We are currently in the exciting process of selecting items for the gallery re-display.

 

I will soon be writing a feature on the blog called Object of the Month, showcasing items from the fashion and textile store, highlighting the stories behind our fantastic collection, so watch this space!

 

Currently on display in the Fashion and Textile Gallery are works from Northumbria University’s BA Hons Fashion and Marketing students. Their work is inspired by the First World War, in honour of the centenary. I have also selected pieces from our own collection of the period to coincide with Northumbria University’s show.

 

Birds of Paradise will be our next exhibition in the Fashion Gallery, opening on 25th October 2014.

 

By Hannah Jackson, Assistant Curator (Fashion and Textiles)





World War One Fashion

10 08 2014

The Fashion & Textile Gallery is currently showcasing two displays to tie-in with the centenary of the outbreak of World War One.

 

Northumbria University show

Northumbria University show

 

Students from Northumbria University’s BA Hons Fashion & Marketing course are presenting an exhibition of costume inspired by clothing of the era. Entitled Changing Times: Fashion Inspired by 1914-1918. The students have drawn upon a range of themes, from contemporary Edwardian clothing, to camouflage wear, the changes in wider society, and the traumas of the trenches. The display includes costume, lingerie, and the student’s workbooks.

 

Lingerie and workbooks

Lingerie and workbooks

 

To accompany the contemporary fashion show, we have displayed several items of costume from the museum’s own collection. These all date to 1914-18, with local connections to Teesdale and Newcastle. The display was curated by our new Assistant Curator, Hannah Jackson, while I carried out any necessary conservation work, and mounted the costumes.

 

Display of objects from the museum’s collection

Display of objects from the museum’s collection

 

One of the items on display is a leather handbag. It was purchased in Newcastle on the day the war broke out, August 4th 1914. The bag was a gift, for Abigail Fleming, of Middleton-in-Teesdale, from her mother. It is displayed with some of its contents. The original mirror has sadly been lost, but a small early plastic notecard, with propelling pencil survives, and still has Abigail’s name and address written on it. A small leather coin purse is attached by a fine metal chain. When the handbag was donated to the museum, it also contained a sewing kit, of needle and thread.

Handbag with contents

Handbag with contents

 

We are also showing a two-piece tailored wedding suit [CST.1362], worn by Frances Bradley for her marriage to Herbert Storey, both of Staindrop, Barnard Castle. They married on 18th April 1916 in the Primitive Methodist Chapel, Staindrop. The wartime economy necessitated a practical choice of daywear. The machine-made jacket and skirt are a cream twilled wool, with cream corded silk collar, cuffs and belt. Both are fully lined with a fine cream sateen. The Norfolk-style belted jacket has hip-length bias-cut basques, and the skirt is in the shorter and fuller style which appeared in 1916.

Wedding suit [CST.1362]

Wedding suit [CST.1362]

One of the more thought-provoking objects in the display is a pair of army boots [CST.1664]. The soles are still encrusted with mud, and they look as if someone has just stepped out of them. They were standard issue by the Territorial Army, and have ‘W^D’, ‘War Department’ stamped onto the leather above each ankle.

 

Army boots [CST.1664]

Army boots [CST.1664]

By Katy Smith, Textile Conservator





Bringing Up The Bodies

1 08 2014
Disembodied arms

Disembodied arms

 

Now seemed as good a time as any to climb the wooden stairs to the attic and tackle the rather crowded mannequin store. Located in the highest point in the roof, and overlooking the green fields and bowling green below, we were faced with a stack of bodies, and body parts, dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. All tangled in a heap, and with more than a little dust, but hopefully no spiders, myself, and volunteer Claire, chose the hottest day of the year so far to heave and haul and work up an appetite for lunch.

The view from the mannequin store

The view from the mannequin store

 

The Bowes Museum has a fantastic costume collection, highlights of which have always been on show to the public. Our collection of mannequins reflects the changing styles of display, and the changing shapes of people’s bodies. Currently we’re favouring acrylic figures, which show off our costume inside and out and are conservation friendly.

 

 

Ribbon corset on acrylic mount – in the Fashion & Textile Gallery

Ribbon corset on acrylic mount – in the Fashion & Textile Gallery

 

The older mannequins are often from shop window displays, made of yellowing paper mache, or painted plaster, and are deteriorating and showing signs of their age.

 

Historic mannequins (excuse the dust)

Historic mannequins (excuse the dust)

 

Rummaging through the cardboard boxes and overstuffed shelves, we’ve uncovered gems from the early 20th century, the 1930s, 1950s, and beyond, along with odd arms, legs and heads which have long-since lost their torsos.

 

Display heads from a shop – used to display Manning hats

Display heads from a shop – used to display Manning hats

 

Working in a museum, we love holding on to old things, so although we won’t use them again to display costume (they aren’t up to our exacting standards), we’ll be keeping them. After a quick vacuum, and brushing off the cobwebs, they’ve all been neatly bagged. We’ll store them safely, making sure they don’t get damaged any further, and maybe one day we can get some out on display in their own right – they are part of the museum’s history after all.

By Katy Smith, Textile Conservator

 

 





Cleaning the Baroque to the Neo-Classical

26 07 2014

The time has come again for the carpets and upholstered furniture in the Baroque, Chinoiserie and Rococo room (Room 12), and the Neo-Classical room (Room 11) to be surface cleaned. Having historic objects on open display allows them to be enjoyed by the public, but also means that over time dust settles on the surfaces. The front of house staff regularly clean the wooden furniture, but the textiles require more specialist attention.

 

Room 12: Baroque, Chinoiserie & Rococo

Room 12: Baroque, Chinoiserie & Rococo

 

To state the obvious, having dusty objects is visually distracting, the fine weaving or embroidery is obscured, and the bright colours are dulled. Dust is also damaging for the textiles, becoming ingrained in their surfaces, and increasingly difficult to remove. Dirty surfaces can attract pests, and cleaning is a good opportunity to study each object in detail, looking for signs of damage and deterioration, or insect activity. But over-ambitious cleaning can remove more than just dust, fragile textile surfaces can become powdery, so the balance must be struck between removing the dust, and not damaging the textiles beneath.

 

Detail from Ven Den Bergh suite

Detail from Ven Den Bergh suite

 

This detail of tapestry chair cover from the Van Den Bergh suite, shows a wolf disguised as a shepherd. The layer of dust that has settled on its surface disguises the vivid colours, the pale cream colour of the sky, and bright red shepherds coat.

 

Curatorial Assistant Rosie cleaning the Van den Bergh suite

Curatorial Assistant Rosie cleaning the Van den Bergh suite

 

We surface clean with a specialist museum vacuum, with adjustable suction. The end of the nozzle is covered with fine muslin, allowing us to check how much dust is being removed, and if any fibres are being lost. Cleaning is slow and systematic, working thoroughly over the textile surfaces, and taking great care around the gilded wood, which is very fragile.

 

Katy, Textile Conservator

Katy, Textile Conservator

 

The results are good, and the appearance of the furniture has been much improved. We’ll monitor the dust levels in this room, and aim to clean the furniture again in another 6 months time. We’ve also highlighted a few objects in need of conservation, so I’ve added these to my ever-expanding list of things to do.

By Katy Smith, Textile Conservator

 

 

 

 





By means of introduction…

23 07 2014

I’m Katy, the new Textile Conservator at the Museum. I am here for 3 years, funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. I originally trained as a ‘general’ conservator, meaning that I worked on ceramics, glass, painted surfaces, archaeological objects, paper, metal, you name it. I later specialised in textiles conservation, training at the Victoria & Albert Museum, where I worked for several years.

 

Katy

Katy

I’m excited to be up North, and at The Bowes Museum, where we’ve got a fantastic collection of textiles and costume that I can’t wait to get my hands on. It’s been a little while since the Museum had a textile conservator on the team. I’ll be here to work on several projects:

 

  • A complete redisplay of the Fashion & Textile Gallery: Working alongside the curator and assistant curator of textiles, we’ll go through the collection, picking out items for display. I’ll assess each piece of textile or costume for its conservation needs, carry out the necessary work, and then mount it ready for installation in the gallery. We’ve already got a few great finds from the museum stores, and I’ll be sharing them with you as we go along, and showing you in more detail what textiles conservation involves.
  • Loans: The Bowes Museum loans textile objects to other museums and institutions, both nationally and internationally. This is a great chance for us to show off what we’ve got, allowing people to see our objects who can’t necessarily make it all the way to Barnard Castle. When loan requests are made to the museum, I’ll be checking if the objects are fit to travel and display, carrying out conservation work, packing them for transit, and helping to install them at the loan venue.
  • Displays: Aside from the permanent display in the Fashion & Textile Gallery, we have a space for changing exhibits. We’re currently showing a couple of items of costume from a collection that tie in with the centenary of the start of the First World War – including a Northern Cyclists Battalion tunic and a leather handbag bought in Newcastle the day the war broke out.
  • Collections Care: We have several galleries of furniture on open display. I’ll be responsible for the care and conservation of all of the textile components, this includes carpets, upholstered furniture, tapestries, and the iconic bed, owned by Joséphine Bowes.

 

Luckily I won’t be doing all of this single-handed. Thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund, I’ll be taking on 2 textile conservation interns to help. The applications are currently open, and we should be welcoming them in early October.

 

By Katy Smith, Textile Conservator





Conservation Work Needed on the 15th Century Altarpiece

19 07 2014

The 6 painted wings of the 15th century Flemish Altarpiece by the Master of the View of Sainte Gudule are in a remarkable state of preservation given their age. Considering they were made some 600 years ago they retain most of their original paint and intensity of colour. However, they are on oak panels which expand and contract as the humidity changes around them, causing some flaking of the paint. So while Rupert McBain will be restoring and conserving the carved elements of the altarpiece if we are successful in reaching our crowdfunding target on Art Happens, I will be conserving the flaking paint that has developed over the last few years. Several small areas are quite severe (see below) and will have to be treated soon. There is evidence of older repairs where the panel has suffered some damages in the past.

It will be interesting to do a full technical examination and to understand the techniques of the artist and materials used. There appear to be areas of underdrawing, see hands of the figure below,  which have not been completed. Why this is so is a matter for speculation at present.

I’m really looking forward to getting the panels into the studio to give them a close examination, though some of the characters look pretty intimidating!

 

Area of flaking paint on the arm of the guard

Area of flaking paint on the arm of the guard

 

Detail of flaking paint

Detail of flaking paint

 

By Jon Old, Conservation Manager








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