CONSERVATION OF A FAN
SANDRA GREENWALD VIERRA, & BETHUNE GIBSON
3.1 Front Panel
The silk was very deteriorated, with numerous broken threads and many areas of loss between the embroidery units. The embroidery was in good condition, except for a few loose silver threads outlining the design. Fading, however, was severe. When the panel was removed from the frame the inner surface revealed the original Prussian blue, which had faded on the exterior surface to a pale green. The embroidery, which had been stitched in several shades of orange and ivory, had become a uniform cream color. The causes of deterioration must be deduced from our meager information concerning the fan from its arrival in the United States to the day it was found in a storage unit in the National Museum of Natural History. While on exhibit in Philadelphia, unprotected by a case, the fan was exposed to sunlight from the windows, handling and contact with other objects, dust particles and air pollutants. In addition, uncontrolled humidity and temperature would have enhanced the deterioration of the silk. The sunlight provided heat as well as exposure to ultraviolet light, which must have caused most of the fading. The storage conditions during the years following exhibit furnished darkness, but little additional protection. Other environmental factors during this period are unknown.
3.2 Back Panel
The silk of this portion was in much better condition probably because it would have been the side that was not exposed to direct light when on exhibit. Fading was moderate, but the surface was quite dusty from contact with exhibit and storage surfaces. There were three small holes in the fabric, caused by abrasion from bent spokes of the frame.
3.3 Braid Edging
This binding was a type of woven braid in which black, yellow, and tarnished, black silver threads predominated. Some of the silver threads were composed of yellow thread wrapped with a thin strip of metal. In addition, a thin silver strip 1.5 mm wide was woven into the braid and it also was black with sulphide corrosion products. The braid seemed to be relatively sound before disassembling the fan, but when the panels and braid were separated from the metal rim of the frame, the edging proved to be very weak, with the weft threads breaking easily. Since the braid had to be removed by softening the adhesive that bound it to the fan, this separation action loosened some of these delicate weft fibers.