Feathers Are Out And Lace Is In: Exhibition Changeover

For the past two weeks we’ve been busy with exhibition changeovers. The feathers are out, lace is in, and a large loan to the Design Museum is on it’s way back to The Bowes Museum. Here is a brief overview of the process (and a photo or two for good measure):

Roger Vivier shoes - de-installed from the display case, and awaiting packing
Roger Vivier shoes and clutch bags – de-installed from the display case, and awaiting condition checking and packing

The Birds of Paradise: Plumes & Feathers in Fashion show closed on Sunday 19th April, and de-installation started the next day. With a Textile Conservator from the fashion museum Momu, in Antwerp, I de-installed the exhibition, and carefully packed it for transit back to Belgium, and to the various fashion houses which lent us items from their collections. The Glass Cube in the Fashion & Textiles Gallery was used as a workspace, into which each object, or dressed figure was brought.

Feather fans laid out in the Glass Cube for condition checking
Feather fans laid out in the Glass Cube for condition checking

Close examination followed, using the pre-prepared condition reports, provided by Momu. This allowed us to compare the current condition, with the state in which it entered the museum back in October. Nothing had changed, no damage or deterioration in any way.

Costumes on padded hangers, within protective Tyvec bags, hanging in a transit box
Costumes on padded hangers, within protective Tyvec bags, hanging in a transit box

The mannequins were then undressed, and each object wrapped or packed. The existing packing materials were re-used – archival quality boxes, with acid-free tissue, and dress bags and padded hangers. Each object was packed and labelled, to be collected by a specialist art transporter. Finally, each mannequin and acrylic mount was wrapped for transit; the plinths and object numbers were removed from the cases; and the gallery had a deep clean. The entire de-installation, of costume and accessories, took 3 days.

A custom-made storage box for a fan belonging to the Momu collection
A custom-made storage box for a fan belonging to the Momu collection

The gallery was then ready for installation of the next exhibition, Common Grounds: Lace Drawn from the Everyday [on until 28th June].

DSC00634
Preparing lace bonnets in the conservation studio, before installation in the gallery

Sarah Casey’s 54 light-sensitive drawings are displayed alongside the lace bonnets from the Blackborne Lace ‘B’ collection. Four bonnets have been conserved and mounted (as previously described).

Conserved lace bonnets
Conserved lace bonnets

The remainder of the bonnets are displayed in their unconserved state, crumpled and creased from years of storage in leather travelling trunks, one of which is also on show, for the first time, in the Glass Cube.

54 lace bonnets, displayed as found
54 lace bonnets, displayed as found

Highlights of the Blackborne collection have also been put on display, in a set of 10 glazed drawers. Showcasing the breadth and quality of the collection, needle, bobbin, and machine-made lace are shown, with examples dating from the early 17th century to late 19th. All have been conserved, with wet cleaning and tear-mending where necessary, and mounted onto fabric-covered padded boards. This has kept us busy in the studio for several months.

Border of Milanese bobbin lace, dated 1665-85 [2007.1.1.110]
Border of Milanese bobbin lace, dated 1665-85 [2007.1.1.110]
No sooner had the lace been installed, Maria and myself headed down to London to de-install several items of costume which we had loaned to the Design Museum,  for the Women, Fashion, Power exhibition, which closed on Sunday 26th April.

Mannequins de-installed from gallery, and awaiting undressing
Mannequins de-installed from gallery, and awaiting undressing
A selection of other items from the exhibition, awaiting packing
A selection of other items from the exhibition, awaiting packing

The exhibition was de-installed on Monday, with only the objects from The Bowes Museum remaining in place for us to de-install on Tuesday. One by one, we opened the display cases, and removed the objects up to the workspace.

Ribbon corset, de-installed from gallery, and about to be condition checked
Ribbon corset, de-installed from gallery, and about to be condition checked [CST.2.453]
The objects were condition checked against our reports. It is often easier to check the condition of costume while still on the mount, especially for fragile garments. Each was removed from the acrylic mannequin or mounts, for the inside of the garments to also be checked. No damage or deterioration had occurred to any of the garments or accessories.

Checking the condition of a women's riding habit against it's report
Checking the condition of a women’s riding habit against it’s report [CST.2.657]
We packed all of our objects into acid-free dress boxes, and all the mounts were bubble-wrapped for transit. The Bowes Museum objects are now on their way back up north. They will be unpacked, and condition checked again upon their arrival at the Museum. They will be dressed onto their mannequins, and re-installed into the Fashion & Textile Gallery as soon as possible.

Mount for Empress Eugenie's paletot jacket
Mount for Empress Eugenie’s paletot jacket [CST.86]
By Katy Smith, Textile Conservator

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