Storing textiles and costumes

Lately, I was collecting information about the conservation of textiles, specifically costumes, in museum collections for an assignment as part of the Collection management course. During my search I came across a lot of interesting websites and articles.

One source I found particularly interesting was the Conservation Podcasts Series by the MNHS (Minnesota Historical Society. Textile conservator Ann Frisina, who works with the MNHS, is demonstrating how to make padded hangers, how to store textiles (both costumes and flat textiles) in acid free boxes and how to roll textiles on a tube. In other podcasts she is also explaining what materials can be used for storing textiles, and how to store quilts and coverlets.
As Ann Frisina explains, boxes can be very useful when storing textiles. They can be stacked high on shelves, they block out dirt and light, act as a barrier against insect infestation and can contain multiple (flat)objects. Moreover, they provide the only way of storing costume items that are too fragile to be hung.
In her demonstration, the conservator uses muslin (cotton) on the bottom of the box. She does that in order to be able to take objects out of the box by only lifting the cotton fabric, withhout the need to touch the (possibly fragile) objects individually. I suppose Tyvek can alo be used for this purpose.
Further on she demonstrates how to fold and pad flat textiles. Underneath each object, she places a piece of acid free tissue paper as a ‘handling sling’, to avoid the necessity of handling the objects directly.
Although the conservator here is giving some good advise and points out the most important aspects to consider when handling and storing textiles, I would think of using a different padding material than she does. She’s using tissue paper as a padding. Which is acid free and smooth when folded with care. However, a chunck of tissue paper can have sharp edged which can damage fragile textiles. Also, the chunks of tissue paper lose their volume and become more flat over time. For that reason I’d rather use a material like Fiberfill (covered with Tyvek for smoothness) that keeps its shape better, to pad textiles. Besides this, the most of the advise Ann Frisina is giving, has been very helpful!

Below you can compare the podcasts for yourself.


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