JAIC , Volume 39, Number 1, Article 9 (pp. to )
JAIC online
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC , Volume 39, Number 1, Article 9 (pp. to )

DISASTER RECOVERY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA, OR, EVERY FLOOD HAS A SILVER LINING

SHIRLEY ELLIS

ABSTRACT—ABSTRACT—One very cold Canadian morning, Sunday, December 22, 1996, an emergency call went out to staff, students, and volunteers. A flood had occurred in the University of Alberta Clothing and Textiles Collection sometime over the weekend. During renovations to the building, a fitting had broken on a pipe two floors above. Needless to say, significant damage had occurred to the collection, with dirty water pouring from the ceiling into the compactor storage unit. The salvage team worked efficiently, making the salvage operation a success. Clothing and textile artifacts were either bagged and frozen if soaked or allowed to air-dry if only slightly damp. Detailed lists of objects and their locations, as well as photographs of the entire operation, assisted with recovery treatments and insurance claims. Then a review of the damage and plans for the treatment of more than 300 textile artifacts began. Contract and volunteer conservators were hired throughout the course of the flood recovery.Treatment varied from wet-cleaning to spot removal using “suction” and blotting techniques, to altering the pH of the solution to attempt the reversal of dye transfer. Successful techniques were discovered for the spot removal of tide lines, particularly on water-sensitive objects. We found ourselves having to treat soaked textile and clothing artifacts that normally would not be wet-cleaned. The results of these treatments were often successful.The flood-damaged clothing and textiles provided numerous challenges throughout the salvage operation and recovery, wherein positive solutions were found. In the end, the flood afforded many people with employment, experience, and a platform for the sharing of knowledge and techniques.

TITRE—Interventions de sauvetage suite à un désastre à l'Université de l'Alberta (ou) Chaque inondation offre une lueur d'espoir. RÉSUMÉ—Par un matin glacial au Canada, le dimanche du 22 décembre 1996, le personnel, les étudiants et les bénévoles reçurent un appel d'urgence. Pendant le weekend, une inondation s'était produite dans la collection de costumes et textiles de l'Université de l'Alberta. La cause en était la rupture, deux étages plus haut, d'un tuyau de plomberie, lors des rénovations de l'édifice. Évidemment les dommages infligés à la collection étaient considérables, surtout à cause de l'eau souillée qui s'était répandue par le plafond jusque dans les étagères mobiles servant à l'entreposage. L'équipe de sauvetage travailla efficacement, faisant de l'opération de récupération un succès. Les costumes et les textiles furent placés dans des sacs et congelés s'ils étaient détrempés, ou séchés à l'air s'ils étaient simplement humides. Des listes détaillées des objets et de leur location, ainsi que des photographies de toute l'opération, furent utiles lors des traitements de sauvetage et aussi pour les déclarations de sinistre. On s'attaqua ensuite à l'examen des dommages et l'organisation du traitement de plus de 300 pièces en textile. Des bénévoles et des restaurateurs furent engagés sous contrat pendant la période d'interventions qui suivit l'inondation. Divers traitements furent accomplis, tels le nettoyage aqueux, l'enlèvement des taches à l'aide de papier buvard et aspiration locale, ainsi que la modification du taux d'acidité des solutions afin d'éliminer les taches dues au transfer de colorants. Des techniques efficaces furent élaborées afin d'enlever localement les auréoles, en particulier sur les tissus sensibles à l'eau. On a dÛ traiter des pièces de textiles détrempées, qui dans d'autres circonstances n'auraient pas été lavées à l'eau. Toutefois les traitements effectués ont souvent été efficaces. Lors des opérations de sauvetage et de récupération, les costumes et textiles endommagés par l'inondation posèrent souvent des défis de taille, auxquels des solutions adéquates furent trouvées. En fin de compte, cette inondation offrit à de nombreuses personnes l'occasion de travailler, d'accroôtre leur expérience, et enfin d'utiliser cet événement comme plate-forme pour le partage de nouvelles connaissances et techniques.

TITULO—Recuperacion de un desastre en la Universidad de Alberta, o, no hay mal que por bien no venga. RESUMEN—En una mañana canadiense muy fria, el domingo 22 de diciembre de 1996, se dirigió una llamada de emergencia al personal, los estudiantes y los voluntarios. En algun momento durante el fin de semana, habia sucedido una inundación en la Coleccion de vestuario y textiles en la Universidad de Alberta. Durante las renovaciones del edificio, una junta de una tuberia se habia roto dos pisos mas arriba. Demás esta decirlo, un daño significativo habia afectado a la colección, con agua sucia derramandose desde el cielorraso sobre la unidad de almacenamiento compacto. El equipo de salvamento trabajó eficientemente, haciendo exitosa la operación de salvamento. Los artefactos de vestuario y textiles fueron o bien colocados en bolsas y congelados cuando estaban empapados, o bien secados al aire si estaban solo ligeramente húmedos.Se hicieron listas detalladas de los objetos y sus ubicaciones, así como fotografias de toda la operación, que ayudaron en los tratamientos de recuperación y en los reclamos a los seguros, Luego se realizó una revision de los daños y planes para el tratamiento de mas de 300 artefactos textiles. Se emplearon conservadores contratados y voluntarios en el curso de la recuperación de la inundación.Los tratamientos variaron desde limpieza con humedad hasta remoción de manchas usando “succión” y tecnicas de secado con papel secante, hasta la alteracion del pH de la solución para tratar de revertir la transferencia de tinturas. Se descubrieron técnicas exitosas para remover las manchas en los bordes de la zona mojada, especialmente en objetos sensibles al agua. Nos encontramos teniendo que tratar artefactos de vestuario y textiles empapados, los que normalmente no hubieran sido limpiados con humedad. Los resultados de estos tratamientos fueron a menudo exitosos.Los vestuarios y textiles dañados por la inundación presentaron numerosos desafios a traves de la operación de salvamento y recuperación, donde se encontraron soluciones positivas. Al final, la inundación proporcionó empleo y experiencia a mucha gente, así como tambien un foro para compartir conocimientos y técnicas.


1 1. INTRODUCTION

The University of Alberta Clothing and Textiles Collection survived a flood disaster that was a crisis with a silver lining. The flood-damaged clothing and textiles provided numerous challenges throughout the salvage operation and recovery, wherein positive solutions were found. As the conservator for the Clothing and Textiles Collection, my role throughout this disaster was largely to coordinate and supervise, where necessary, the team of conservators; establish guidelines for the documentation and procedures; report to the administration; and actively participate in the treatments. The understanding gained has helped and will continue to help with the conservation treatments of the collection's artifacts. It is hoped that sharing our experiences will assist others faced with the same fate.

The University of Alberta Clothing and Textiles Collection, curated by Anne Lambert, is a diverse collection composed of more than 15,000 historical (dating to 1760) cross-cultural and contemporary clothing, textile, and related artifacts. It is a study collection utilized by students and staff on the university campus, as well as by educators, researchers, and public programmers from outside the community. In addition, the public is welcome to view the collection. Ongoing care and maintenance of the collection are provided by the conservator and curatorial technician.

Approximately 1,700 artifacts from the Clothing and Textiles Collection are housed in a compactor storage unit that accommodates hanging, tray (flat), and rolled storage sections. This is largely where the floodwater entered the collection.


2 2. SALVAGE

One very cold Alberta morning, Sunday, December 22, 1996, at -35°C, an emergency call went out to staff, students, and volunteers. A flood had occurred in the University of Alberta Clothing and Textiles Collection sometime during the weekend. The exact time was never established, but given the fact that some of the artifacts were already dry when the flood was discovered, we can only speculate. During renovations to the building, a fitting had broken on a pipe two floors above. Significant damage had occurred to the collection, with dirty water pouring from the ceiling into the compactor storage unit. The water was light brown, probably colored by the golden-colored insulation material of the ceiling tiles as well as by the dirt it picked up along its travels. The water was later analyzed, but the cause of the color was inconclusive. The gas chromatography–infrared analysis (GCIR) showed trace organics, including phthalates and long chain acids such as oleic acid. Small amounts of calcium and magnesium were revealed in the inductively coupled plasma emission spectroscopy (ICP) analysis.

The salvage team of 12, headed by Suzanne McLean, curatorial technician, worked efficiently, making the salvage operation a success. Staff came in from the University of Alberta Museums and Collections Services, as well as from the Department of Human Ecology, where the collection is housed. The curator, curatorial technician, conservator, and administrative officer worked together to deal with the emergency. Students and volunteers from the museum community braved the cold and graciously came in to help.

Artifacts were removed from the storage unit and dealt with according to their degree of wetness. With only two domestic chest freezers available, space was limited, so only those clothing and textile artifacts that were soaked were contained in clear polyethylene bags and frozen. Those that were only slightly damp were moved to tables or hanging racks and allowed to air-dry. A number of rolled textiles were among those soaked. The largest chest freezer available in the Home Economics Building was not long enough to accommodate these rolls, so an alternative for frozen storage was sought. Fortunately, the Provincial Museum of Alberta has a walk-in freezer used for its natural history collection. Several long, rolled textiles were transported there for interim storage.

Detailed lists of artifacts were generated throughout the salvage and recovery stages, as well as photographs of the entire operation. These assisted with the recovery and insurance claims. Recording the artifacts' temporary location, condition as to degree and location of wetness, and dye transfer was found to provide invaluable sources of information in their recovery. Throughout the recovery process, a tally was kept of the accession number, object name, and treatment hours, both proposed and actual. This tally was useful in keeping track of complete and incomplete treatments, as well as for insurance purposes.

Once the immediate crisis was over that Sunday, a review of the damage and plans for the treatment of the artifacts began. A global time estimate for all damaged artifacts was produced for the insurance adjusters and to determine staffing needs. Those artifacts that were moved to the tables or hanging racks to dry were examined so that a time estimate for treatment could be established. Proposing a time estimate for the frozen artifacts was more difficult since many were bagged and frozen before a conservator could examine them. For these artifacts an estimate was established by viewing the frozen artifact through the bag and by reviewing the initial artifact tags and lists. Since in most cases the estimates were completed in haste, the time proposed for treatment of all artifacts was doubled to allow for treatments that would inevitably go over time. In the end it was found that the actual treatment-hour total for all artifacts was only 50% greater than the original estimate.

A few weeks following the flood, those artifacts left out to dry were moved back into the storage compactor unit. At this time it was noticed that there were more flood-damaged artifacts than originally identified. A thorough examination of all objects was needed. Two staff members and one volunteer reexamined each artifact and found an additional 184 possible casualties. Note that only 136 were retrieved during the salvage operation. This error is likely attributed to the urgency of the situation. Water was still pouring into the compactor unit when the first of the salvage team arrived; they needed to work quickly. Time to examine each object thoroughly was simply not available. Also, numerous volunteers with varying levels of expertise were helping. Their ability to properly identify water damage varied. But even with the second survey of the collection, damaged artifacts continued to be found throughout the recovery process.

With the list of damaged artifacts now totaling just over 300, a priority system was developed, and objects were treated accordingly. Priority 1 objects generally received treatment first and included the frozen artifacts and those that exhibited dye transfer. Priority 2 objects, which generally had obvious tide lines, were treated next. Priority 3 objects were treated last. The damage on these objects may have existed before the flood, and was not conclusively caused by it.

Seven contract and volunteer conservators worked throughout the course of the flood recovery. All were trained textile conservators with varying levels of experience. Those at an entry level in the profession were involved with tasks such as condition-reporting the Priority 2 and 3 artifacts, and following up with straightforward treatments including wet-cleaning or spot removal. Those with more experience focused on treatments with a higher level of difficulty. These included dye transfer and spot-removing tide lines on clothing or textiles that posed an inherent challenge due to their construction, yarn or weave structure, or fiber content. To maintain some consistency, the treatments guidelines (table 1) were established for photography; handling of the treatment procedure, which included retrieving previous conservation and/or student documentation reports; and utilizing standardized condition and treatment forms that were adapted for the flood.

Guidelines for Documentation/Treatment Procedures of Flood-Damaged Textiles
Prior to treating the txeile, retrieve any existing documentation that may elaborate on dimensions, method of manufacture, fiber identification, or anything else that may help in the decision making for treatment.Once the decision for treatment is made, prepare the work area, as other conservators may be using the equipment and/or space.Record as much information as possible on the condition/treatment report provided. Without going into great detail, record the overall condition of the object even though it may not be related to the water damage, e.g., tears, holes, etc. These aspects of the object's condition may be affected by the subsequent treatment. Try to follow the worksheet provided.If possible, do a fiber identification or record your assumption(s) followed by a “?”.Photodocument the object before and after treatment, and during if deemed necessary.Vacuum dry textiles prior to any wet treatments.Secure with netting any holes, weaknesses, tears, and so on prior to cleaning.Record as much information as possible about the wet-cleaing/drying procedure, e.g., pH, temperature, detergent concentration, time spent in baths, color of bath (soil removal, dye loss), use of fans, drying cloths, dye migration.Record procedur, solution concentration, and pH of any spot treatments.Note any other observations on he worksheet in the space provided: Was the treatment successful, did anything unusual occur, how were the objcts stored (frozen)?Record the time spent for documentation and treatment. 


3 3. RECOVERY

The recovery operation for the flood-damaged clothing and textiles included treatments such as wet-cleaning; spot removal using suction, absorption, and blotting techniques; and altering the pH of the solution in order to attempt the reversal of dye transfer. To illustrate some of the techniques employed to treat these water-damaged textiles, they will be presented as case studies.

Certain procedures were followed when treating the frozen artifacts. Any existing records were retrieved prior to removing them from the freezer, since in most cases it was close to impossible to view the artifact properly. Time was of the essence. These records included student documentations or earlier conservation reports. They provided information such as descriptions, fiber and material identification, and diagrams or photographs to reduce the potential for surprises. If the artifact was dry, low-suction vacuuming generally preceded treatment.

A number of factors determined how and whether a treatment strategy would proceed—for example, the conservator's level of experience, the degree of difficulty of the treatment, and the ramifications of the treatment on the object. Consultation with the head conservator was usual. Those cases that posed some uncertainty in the outcome or a permanent alteration to the artifact required that the curator be consulted to make the final decision.


3.1 3.1 CASE STUDY 1 (ACC. NO. 79.8.8)

An off-white low-twist crepe silk 1920s dress with black silk embroidery floss suffered from dye transfer. The dress had been frozen but was only damp when retrieved from the freezer. The black embroidery floss was not fast in water and subsequently transferred a purple-colored dye to the off-white ground fabric. The transfer was evident in many areas throughout and near the embroidered sections. For this reason, spot-cleaning did not appear to be an option. Full immersion also did not appear to be an option because the black dye was so obviously not fast. With testing, it was found that the dye was easily removed with an anionic detergent solution of 0.2% Orvus WA Paste in distilled water. The curator was called for a consultation. Given the positive results of the spot test, it was decided to proceed with a full-immersion wet-clean.

In anticipation of unfast dyes, the drying area was prepared with fans and hand-held blow-dryers set out so that the dress could be dried quickly. The dress was immersed in the bath using the same solutions as the test. Dye loss was evident only during the final rinsing with distilled water. In an attempt to encourage the dye away from the dress, the rinse water was swirled by hand, creating a slight current. The dress was removed from the bath and blotted with white cotton towels, where dye transfer was visible. Once blotted, the dress was immediately hung on a polyethylene-covered padded hanger, and drying was accelerated by the fans and blow-dryers set on a cool setting.

Results of the wet-cleaning were very positive. The dye transfer that had occurred during the flood, in most areas, was removed from the white silk with only two lightened stains remaining. There was no additional transfer of dye to the white silk. Despite gentle stretching during drying, there was some shrinkage of 4% in the lengthwise direction due to the tightening of the crepe yarn.

The reason the dye was easily removed with wet-cleaning might be that the conditions for dye uptake were less than ideal. And the reason the newly bled dye did not penetrate or diffuse into the white silk fibers upon drying might be that the embroidery was dried quickly. Given the sample size, simple testing methods noted in E. R. Trotman (1970, 603–4) were inconclusive except to say that the black dye is not of a basic class but is possibly an acid, premetallized, or mordanted dye. Further investigation is warranted.


3.2 3.2 CASE STUDY 2 (ACC. NO. 77.5.101)

A 1930s beige crepe silk dress with a multicolored floral print was frozen due to water damage along the back hem. Fugitive dyes on this dress included the navy blue, green, yellow, and magenta. The dye transferred into both the beige areas and the adjacent dyed areas. When this dress was retrieved from the freezer, it was still wet. In order to prevent drying of those areas that were not immediately treated, they were covered with polyethylene sheeting.

There were two objectives for the treatment of this dress. The first was to remove or reduce the dye transfer that had occurred, and the second was to prevent the formation of a tide line along the wet edge. In attempting the removal of the dye transfer, the most innocuous solution of water was tried first. Water was judiciously sponged only onto the areas of dye transfer, with disposable diapers underneath to absorb the water. Finding no success, the conservator sponged on a 0.2% anionic detergent solution of Orvus in the same manner. As there was still no success, a more aggressive approach was taken.

Because the fiber content of this dress was silk, it was speculated that the dye might be of an acid class. An alkaline solution therefore might be successful in stripping the unwanted dye. An alkaline solution was prepared using a 0.1% solution of sodium carbonate in distilled water. The pH was lowered to 8.9 by adding 4:1 glacial acetic acid in water dropwise. This alkaline solution was applied onto the areas of dye transfer using a dropper and absorbed in a disposable diaper underneath. While the diapers worked reasonably well in pulling the liquid directly downward so as not to spread to adjacent areas, the suction table was also tried but was found to have an inadequate draw for this purpose. Removal of the navy blue and magenta dyes was moderately successful, while the yellow and green dyes tended to leave a yellow halo around the motif that only lightened with repeated applications of all three solutions but did not disappear.

Areas that were wet but had no dye transfer were sponged with the distilled water and detergent solutions as above, then rinsed. They were dried quickly using hand-held blow-dryers set on a cool setting. A slight tide line formed upon drying, so an attempt to remove this by sponging with only a slightly dampened sponge while feathering the edge was tried. There was some success with this technique, although applying the same solutions while using the suction table resulted in greater success. The tide line could be moved to the seam line or hidden by a motif. Treatment on the suction table also prevented the crepe yarn from further twisting and promoted a flattened texture.


3.3 3.3 CASE STUDY 3 (ACC. NO. 84.40.1B)

A bustle skirt and drape, dated from the mid-1880s, was damaged during the flood. It is constructed from unweighted shot-silk satin, which incorporates two different yarns in its structure. The brick-red warp yarn is visible on the right side, while the teal weft yarn is only visible on the wrong side when the light catches it.

The skirt and drape had been frozen because they were wet when discovered during the salvage operation. The front area of the skirt hem was wet, and dark tide lines were evident on the right side of the skirt where it had been stained with the floodwater but had already dried. The right corner of the skirt drape was also wet. The drape was easily wet-cleaned in a bath of distilled water and a 0.2% anionic detergent solution using Orvus. The skirt, however, was not so easily cleaned because of its multiple layers.

Two techniques were used to flush the wet area and reduce the formation of tide lines. With the first technique, the wet areas were sponged with distilled water through to a disposable diaper that was placed beneath each section of pleats. With the second, the suction table was used. Where there were layers of fabric as with the pleats, the diaper technique was more successful. However, with only single layers of fabric, the suction table worked well.

Initially, a saturated wet sponge was used to supply a greater quantity of distilled water to flush the area. This area was blotted with white cotton towels, then encouraged to dry quickly using a hand-held blow-dryer set on a cool setting. Meanwhile, the perimeter of the stain was feathered out by using a slightly damp sponge. The black tide line softened but continued to move. It appeared as if more than a watermark were staining the fabric. The interfacing beneath the pleats was composed of a black cotton fabric, the dye of which exhibited very poor washfastness. It was thought that this is likely the source of the black tide line. This theory was supported by the following case study.


3.4 3.4 CASE STUDY 4 (ACC. NO. 73.15.16 A-D)

A second silk twill-weave bodice and skirt with a brown cotton interfacing, also believed to date from the mid-1880s, was frozen in a solid block following the flood. The salvage comments read, “Bodice soaked entirely, upper half and all of skirt back soaked, two of the three small fragments are wet, one fragment dry, brown dye fugitive, boning in bodice.” These comments, as well as the previous treatment, were found to be useful for proposing a treatment strategy.

The degree of wetness of all the garment components was extensive, so it was decided that an immersion might be the best treatment to remove the floodwater so as to eliminate the formation of tide lines. A number of the pieces had cream-colored silk insets decorated with metallic threads, so it was decided to test only one fragment first with the full immersion. It was known from the salvage comments that the brown dye was fugitive. The treatment of the fragment in the test immersion was successful, and although the golden brown dye did discharge as expected, it did not transfer.

The bodice and skirt were immersed in a bath of distilled water at 33°C. Initially, there was the golden-brown dye discharge as had been seen with the fragment. However, once the lining on the skirt thawed and became wetted, there was a severe dark brown dye discharge. It seemed that “clouds” of dye were moving into the bath. The bodice was quickly removed and blotted with white towels. In an attempt to minimize the aftereffects of the dark brown dye from the skirt, distilled water was allowed to run into the bath while it was draining. The skirt was soon removed and blotted with white cotton towels.

Both the bodice and the skirt were set up to dry quickly with the aid of numerous fans. Because the bodice had iron-based metal stays, which had been identified by the previous rust stains on the inner bodice and by a magnetic pull, rapid cool air from blow-dryers assisted the fans with drying. There was no additional iron corrosion evident and no dye transfer to the cream-colored silk. The positive results of being able to hasten the drying process of a wet treatment on an object with iron-based findings has led to subsequent treatments of such objects, also with positive results.

The skirt treatment was less successful, however. The cream-colored silk had grayed somewhat and there were numerous tide lines throughout. It appeared that the dye from the dark brown cotton lining had transferred to the silk. Further treatment strategies were reviewed at this point. Removal of the graying seen on the cream-colored inset showed some success with a controlled sponging with the anionic detergent solution (0.2% Orvus in distilled water), followed by a rinse with distilled water. Detaching this inset and wet-cleaning with detergent was contemplated, but it was decided that subjecting the metallic threads to a second wet treatment was not justified. The improvement to the cream-colored silk would only be moderate and damage to the metallic threads a higher risk. There was a possibility that the detergent solution and agitation of the sponging action would cause a loss of adhesion of the metallic foil to the paper substrate.

The skirt required further treatment to reduce the tide lines. A systematic approach was taken by isolating the skirt pleats with disposable diapers underneath for absorption of the wet solutions. Removal of the black tide lines was successful only by flushing the line with the 0.2% anionic detergent solution of Orvus in distilled water, followed by a distilled-water rinse over the entire area, and only when the entire pleat was rewet. Basically, the tide line was moved into the seam or buried beneath the next pleat.

Treatments of the above two artifacts exhibited similar results with regard to the black tide lines. The dye from the dark brown or black cotton interfacing had extremely poor washfastness, and, when in direct contact or close to the outer fabric, the dye migrated to the silk. Because further treatment to the tide line did exhibit removal or movement, it is likely that it could be removed if the two layers could be separated. Identification of this dye is not confirmed, but it is suspected from its poor washfastness to be a direct dye or possibly a mordanted basic dye.


3.5 3.5 CASE STUDY 5 (ACC. NO. 89.26.1)

A green-and-beige plaid, silk-taffeta dress with a dark beige cotton lining dated from the 1860s suffered water damage along the back sleeve edge and proper left back hem. This dress was missed during the initial salvage operation and had dried, leaving crisp tide lines in these areas and a softened hand below them.

In testing for colorfastness, the green dye from the dress's outer fabric and dark beige dye from the skirt lining did transfer in both distilled water and a 0.2% anionic Orvus detergent solution. The skirt lining had no tide lines visible, while that of the sleeve did. The treatment objective for this artifact was to remove the tide lines in a controlled manner, while not causing the green dye to transfer or excessively wetting the lining. Therefore, flushing was not an alternative.

Conservator Yolanda Olivotto perfected a tamping technique using blotting paper to remove tide lines. Where the tide line was faint, only distilled water was applied by using a slightly damp corner of a small square (2 cm sq.) of blotting paper. The moist blotting paper was pressed against the silk, which was then immediately blotted with dry blotting paper to absorb all the water from the silk. Where the tide line was darker, the technique incorporated a 0.2% anionic Orvus solution followed by a distilled water rinse. This technique successfully removed the tide lines while not wetting out the lining. The crispness of the line was also removed.


3.6 3.6 CASE STUDY 6 (ACC. NO. 87.13.7)

A late-19th-century silk, diamond-patterned quilt was water-damaged along one side. It had been frozen in the walk-in freezer at the Provincial Museum of Alberta. A conservation team treated some of these rolled textiles at the museum within weeks of the flood. However, when the team examined this quilt, they decided that it required a more time-consuming, specialized treatment, and they returned it to the freezer. Once it was transported to the university, another team of conservators examined the quilt and proceeded to treat it with success.

This quilt was fragile, with many silk patches in a degraded state. There was dye transfer from the flood, and a student documentation report had noted pre-existing dye transfer as well. Full-immersion wet-cleaning was not an option.

The tide line and slightly beyond in the patterned portion of the quilt and to the edge of the border were flushed with the anionic detergent solution followed with distilled water. The perimeter of the flushed area was feathered out using just slightly dampened blotting paper as with the previous treatment. As an alternative, clean white cotton gloves were used instead of blotting paper. Fans were positioned nearby to hasten drying. Once the obverse was treated, tide lines on the reverse were reduced by using dampened blotting paper sparingly, as with the previous case study.


3.7 3.7 CASE STUDY 7 (ACC. NO. 85.15.1)

A turn-of-the-century wool-weft and cotton-warp cream-colored dress with an embroidered net trim over the yoke and cuffs had water damage along the proper left back hem. The water damage had left a brown tide line with a crisp edge.

Treatment of this dress proceeded as a standard wet-cleaning in a 0.2% Orvus anionic detergent solution in distilled water at 27°C. The tide line was easily removed, resulting in a successful treatment.


4 4. OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS


4.1 4.1 SALVAGE

  1. Volunteers possess varying levels of expertise. Have those with greater levels play more critical roles during the salvage operation, e.g., handling the artifacts and noting the damage.
  2. In freezing wet artifacts, ensure that they are either bagged separately in clear polyethylene bags or stored with a similar barrier placed between layers.
  3. Record all that you can about an artifact, given the time you have, e.g., visible damage, fugitive dyes, materials that require special treatment such as baleen boning or iron-alloyed findings: the more information the better.
  4. Good indicators of water damage include stains to the wrappings around textiles, such as cotton muslin and tissue paper, as well as the presence of tide lines, dye transfer, and alteration of texture.


4.2 4.2 RECOVERY

  1. Retrieve existing records such as condition reports, documentation records, donor records, and photographs prior to beginning your treatment. These help to prepare you, especially if the artifact is frozen and not easily visible.
  2. Only unroll or unfold frozen artifacts once they have thawed. If there are no indications of fugitive dyes, they can be placed in a cold bath to let them thaw quickly so they can be easily unrolled or unfolded. If time permits, they could thaw at room temperature or cooler.
  3. Clothing objects with metal or organic findings such as baleen boning or iron-alloyed boning can be wet-cleaned but require special attention during the drying process. For organic materials, the wet-cleaning should proceed as quickly as possible to reduce the likelihood of thorough wetting. Weights or tension may need to be applied during drying to prevent warping. For metals, dry quickly by blotting well and use fans and blow-dryers set on a cool setting.
  4. Wet-cleaning a clothing object with bias trim can pose a challenge in finishing, as the trim, if pulled off-grain in sewing, may not easily lie flat and may tend to buckle.


5 5. CONCLUSIONS

The University of Alberta Clothing and Textiles Collection was fortunate to survive this flood relatively unscathed. In the end, only 3% of the artifacts suffered irreparable damage. While not to say this is of no consequence, because some of those artifacts were in excellent condition with good provenance, it is to say, however, that it could have been worse. In many cases the damage caused by the flood was “reversible,” and the artifact was able to receive a cleaning treatment it desperately needed. When presented with a wet object that would be considered a high risk or poor candidate for a wet treatment, techniques were explored and often found to be successful. A better understanding of the treatment procedure and results when using water-based systems was gained.

Many conservators of institutions suffer from the same woes—too few staff members, lack of funding, time constraints, and so on. Fortunately, a team of conservators could be hired for the flood recovery; the insurance guaranteed funding; and, although there was some pressure by the insurance adjusters to finish the work quickly, reasonable time was given to successfully treat the artifacts as needed. While this flood was an unwelcome disaster, as all are, it afforded many people with employment, experience, and a platform for the sharing of knowledge and techniques.



REFERENCE

Trotman, E. R.1970. Dyeing and chemical technology of textile fibers.4th ed.High Wycombe, England: Charles Griffin & Company Ltd.



FURTHER READING

Gohl, E.P.G., and Vilensky, L. D.1983. Textile science.2d ed.Melbourne: Longman Cheshire Pty. Ltd.

Johnson, A., ed. 1989. The theory of coloration of textiles.2d ed.West Yorkshire, England: Society of Dyers and Colourists.

Kerr, N.1998. Personal communication. Department of Human Ecology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.



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Edmonton, Alberta

Canada T5L 2R8


AUTHOR INFORMATION

SHIRLEY ELLIS received a master of art conservation degree from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. While a student there, she completed internships at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, where she worked largely with ethnographic objects, and in Bodrum, Turkey, where she worked with artifacts retrieved from an underwater archaeological site. Prior to Queen's University, she completed her bachelor of education degree at the University of Alberta, majoring in home economics. She continued her studies there in clothing and textiles, and that led to internships in textile conservation at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City and the Institut Royal du Patrimoine Artistique in Brussels. While in Edmonton, she has worked for the Provincial Museum of Alberta dealing with textile and ethnographic objects. Currently, she is the textile conservator in the Department of Human Ecology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Address: 3-02 Human Ecology Building, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 2N1. E-mail: shirley.ellis

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