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Subject: Flameproofing velvet curtain

Flameproofing velvet curtain

From: Karin von Lerber <karin.vonlerber>
Date: Tuesday, October 28, 2003
I have been asked to evaluate the possibility of flame proofing an
original cinema curtain by the Swiss artist Max Bill, made in 1957
in a cinema which has been completely designed by this artist.
Unfortunately, fire police has now shut down the cinema and requests
the replacement or adaptation of curtain and seats, which makes the
company running this cinema getting close to financial ruin. The
curtain is made from cotton velvet by adding bands of different
colors of uni-colored textile. It measures about 75 square meters
(5m high, and each part 7.5 m wide). It is fixed on top and bottom
by threading metal hooks (fixed to the movable technical rail) in
metal eyes which are let into the velvet. To the side, the curtain
is tied to eye-screws with cotton tape.

In Europe, we generally try to hold to original materials as long as
possible; making a copy, for us, is considered a rather big
intrusion. I am fully aware, that in this particular situation, a
copy would be the easiest (and cheapest) solution, and--in my
personal view--rather more ethical than treating the original with
lots of chemicals. But in order to support either making a copy or
opting for changing the original, I would like to be well
documented, as both options will stir quite a lot of debate, I am
sure.

Therefore, I wonder:

    *   has somebody had experience treating historical cotton
        (velvet) with fire proofing chemicals (and with cleaning
        cotton velvet before doing so)?

    *   Does somebody know of other historical curtains in similar
        public spaces (theatres, cinemas, etc.)?  What solution was
        chosen to provide safety to the public?

    *   I am afraid that water from sprinklers would ruin the
        velvety surface aspect by completely flattening it, and make
        the cotton shrink. As the curtains are fixed both on top and
        bottom shrinking might make them tear. So, probably just
        wetting the curtain with every fire alarm would not be a
        good idea.

I am very much looking forward to any comment, thanks,

Karin von Lerber
Textile conservator
Prevart GmbH
Konzepte fur die Kulturgutererhaltung
Atelier fur Textilkonservierung
Oberseenerstrasse 93
CH-8405 Winterthur, Switzerland
+41 52 233 12 54
Fax: +41 52 233 12 57


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Received on Tuesday, 28 October, 2003

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