Flag conservation

Flag conservation
Textile conservator, Gwen Spicer of Spicer Art Conservation at work

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dust Covers. So many designs, so many choices


Dust covers are critical in protecting collections from light and dust. They are an easily implemented level of protection. Recently SAC created a Tyvek dust cover for Historic Cherry Hill, as a costume hanging unit. The hanging unit to be covered is a chrome-plated Metro International system on large caster wheels. Historic Cherry Hill was fortunate to receive an IMLS grant for the equipment and supplies.

There are many ways to construct a dust cover, thus no set method or set materials are specified for use. In my experience, it is more based on the dimensions of the materials available for the project, and the time and skills to devote to the project, that determines the design (simple low tech vs. complex high tech). Think about those great dust covers at FASNY Firefighting Museum that used magnets to support the Tyvek! FASNY needed covers but did not have the staff time to create complex covers, their low tech solution is fabulous.

Along my travels through the years I have seen covers made of muslin or other types of cotton fabric, even pull-down curtains used for barriers, which is just another case of where solutions for preservation are about available materials and creative minds.

But, back to Cherry Hill's cover.  The construction of the cover was created by the fact that from the base of the unit to its highest point was about the same measurement as the width of the Tyvek. Therefore a full sheet of Tyvek wrapped the sides of the unit and a separate piece was positioned at the top. This required little sewing, just around the upper edge.

The front has a center front opening that is secured with twill tape ties, as seen in the image below. Ties are postioned at the top, and then in several locations down the front opening.

Custom made tyvek dust cover, created and designed by Gwen Spicer of Spicer Art Conservation, New York
The cover placed onto the unit with the front closed.

For this particular cover we added a means to pull back the two panels ("curtains") of the front, to allow for complete and unobstructed access. The center front opening allowed for this to happen. The method we used was to add along the upper edge, a horizontal cord that ran from one far side to the other. Small plastic rings were evenly positioned along the upper edge of the two front opening sides and stitched along the opening. The rings were previously threaded onto the cord, thus acting like a curtain rod.

Custom made tyvek dust cover for the archival storage of historic clothing. Designed and created by Gwen Spicer of Spicer Art Conservation
The cover untied, with the front panels opened.

The cord was secured at each end and at the center. The cord was held taught because the cover fit so well to the unit.

Detail of the front corner with the front pulled open.

Custom made Tyvek dust cover, archival museum storage, Spicer Art Conservation
Reverse side of the dust cover.
If you are wondering how big this cover is, it is very big.  And yes, working with a cover this size is a bit daunting.  We are talking about yards and yards of Tyvek.  This is one reason why the cover was designed to minimize the amount of stitching. Tyvek is inherently stiff and therefore difficult to negotiate with the sewing machine. But we pulled it off, and even made ruffled edges around the giant caster wheels.  A nice touch if we do say so.

We at SAC are happy to have had the opportunity to design and construct this custom dust cover to protect the collections for Historic Cherry Hill.

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Gwen Spicer is a textile conservator in private practice.  Spicer Art Conservation specializes in textile conservation, object conservation, and the conservation of works on paper.  Gwen's innovative treatment and mounting of flags and textiles is unrivaled.   To contact her, please visit her website.

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