HISTORIC UPHOLSTERY: A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON TREATMENT
Historic upholstery and its conservation are a new field of study in the decorative arts. Within the past decade scholars and conservators have made significant new discoveries about the social, economic, technological, and aesthetic history of the upholstered artifact. This new information has demanded a new approach to the analysis and conservation treatment of these three-dimensional and complex objects.
As scholarly research uncovered new facts about upholstery practices of previous generations, curators placed new demands on conservators to achieve historical accuracy when preparing objects for exhibition. As conservators were called upon to treat upholstered objects, it became increasingly clear that developing new technology for reupholstering these artifacts was imperative to preserve the artifact and protect historical evidence.
As a Textile Update Session paper, this article presents information that is not specific to new research by the author but rather a review of general trends in the field as a whole. The generally accepted process of how treatment is approached is outlined by the subject headings. Upholstery conservation solutions, research, and innovative work, some of it published (see Further Reading), have been produced by a number of institutions and individuals. It should be noted that advances and contributions by one individual or institution have been used as building blocks for work by others, so it is difficult to credit a specific advancement. Technical solutions to a particular problem reflect the biases and skills of individual specialists. Since many of the specifics of treatment change considerably from lab to lab, individual solutions are too numerous to describe thoroughly in one paper. The purpose of this article is to provide basic information to those unfamiliar with historic upholstery and its conservation, an outline of an accepted approach to this type of object, and brief descriptions of possible solutions.