Wedding Dress Preservation Conservator Interview

Posted by on Nov 6, 2017 in General, Wedding Gown Preservation | 0 comments

Wedding Dress Preservation Conservator Interview

Do you have questions about wedding dress preservation? Such as what is the proper way to store your wedding gown? What is better for wedding dress preservation, tissue or muslin wrapping? Which box is better, buffered or unbuffered for wedding gown preservation? Does cedar offer any protection for textiles? What in the world is lignin anyway?

We recently asked some these questions to Margaret Geiss-Mooney, our expert textile conservator. She is the textile expert that assists us when we have questions and to ensure that our treatments and preservation materials are all museum quality. Here are her answers…

Does cedar offer any protection to garments beyond protecting them from insects?

Cedar doesn’t offer protection from insects (moths/beetles in their larval form) that go after the proteins (i.e. wools; feathers; leathers) and cellulosics in textiles (i.e. cotton; basts; rayon; acetate). Wood should be avoided for preservation because of the acidic components in wood that can’t be blocked with paint/finish.

What has provided protection from the insects in a cedar chest is the well constructed chest (solid wood pieces; no gaps throughout; well fitted lid) combined with the practices involved in putting away textiles/costumes in to the chest (inspected and cleaned before stored; cleaning usually pretty harsh including being boiled or beaten on a clothes line with a rug beater; rotating in and out every 6 months with the change of seasons). .

What is better for wrapping textiles, tissue or muslin?

Cotton fabric is always preferred over any kind of paper (wood based) tissue – it is much more durable (especially in a water-based disaster); it is available in larger sizes/pieces than paper tissue so no piecing is needed; it can be reused after periodic rinsing/drying; it is softer when crumpled for stuffing.

The cotton fabric that is in intimate contact with the garments should be preshrunk/rinsed in order to eliminate any possible physical shrinkage and to remove sizing applied for the weaving process.

Does cotton muslin have any lignin in it?

There is no lignin in muslin as the cotton fibre comes from the cotton boll and not from stem/stalk of plant (like wood; other bast fibres such as linen, jute and hemp).

How long will acid-free/lignin-free tissue remain acid free?

 It is not possible to estimate how long acid-free/lignin-free tissue will remain acid free as the tissue itself becomes acidic as it ages itself and as the tissue absorbs degradation products from what is wrapped around (due to osmosis: higher concentration moving to lower concentration.)

Can you tell us a bit about lignin?

Lignin is the ‘stiffener’ in tree trunks and plant stems/stalks. It surrounds the part of the plant used as fibre (i.e. bast fibres). Lignin yellows very easily when exposed to light (the lignin content in newsprint paper is why the exposed side is yellow when you have left the newspaper outside all morning). Lignin also becomes very acidic and also brittle when exposed to light.

Is acid-free, lignin-free paper completely acid-free and lignin free?

In the paper industry, ‘lignin-free’ is defined as less than 1% content. ‘Acid-free’ is defined as ‘not in the acidic range of the pH scale’, meaning it is in the neutral to the alkaline part of pH scale (= pH 7 to pH13). Therefore, you need to ask the paper manufacturer the exact lignin content and what the pH is for a specific paper as the paper could be really alkaline.

For preservation, do you recommend using all buffered boxes, unbuffered or differentiating between boxes based on the garment fabric?

I recommend differentiating between unbuffered/buffered boxes and tissue based on the primary fibre content of the garment. Or using boxes made from corrugated polyethylene (i.e. Coroplast™) could be used instead for all fibre types.

The pH of buffered boxes and tissue are usually too high/alkaline for the protein-based fibres (such as silk). Coroplast™ boxes are also superior to paper-based boxes in those situations where the box would be stored in high RH environments as the polyethylene does not absorb any moisture. I also recommend the use of cotton/silk fabric for wrapping instead of paper-based tissue.

Learn more about textile preservation at: Smithsoneon Museum Conservation Institute

Contact Margaret Geiss-Mooney at: http://www.textileconservator.com/

 

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