Flag conservation

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The conservation and stabilization of a 19th century collection of children's leather shoes

by Barbara Owens, SAC staff

Recently, a large group of children's shoes (and one very small leather glove), many from the late 1800's, arrived at the studio to be conserved and prepared for archival storage or display.  The shoes had been stored in an area where they were exposed to water.  Many of them, constructed entirely of leather, or featuring leather components, showed liquid tide lines. In addition, the shoes were misshapen and several had evidence of insect activity.

Leather conservation, object conservation, collections, artifacts, repair, conservation, preservation, stabilization
The collection as it arrived at the studio. 

The private collection represented shoes for the very small child or toddler to a child of perhaps six or seven years old.  Several of the shoes had been padded or filled with old newspaper or other material that had compressed, yellowed, and ultimately provided a filling of acidic materials to the shoes in which they were placed.

Newspaper as a filling is a common material used to give shape to leather shoes and boots. Leather shoes that show signs of use and wear are more pliable, making the area at the ankle, or above it, more weak. This is particularly an issue for boot style shoes with laces or straps; and especially for shoes with a taller height, which are prone to slouching under their own weight.

The stabilization of these small shoes therefore required the construction of some very small inserts.  The inserts are each custom made for the individual shoe or boot. Each insert is made from archival materials and is intended to give stability and support of the entire shoe, but especially for the weak and vulnerable components.

Stabilization and preservation of leather artifacts. Conservation services of Gwen Spicer of Spicer Art Conservation.
The shoe outline and the ethafoam to be covered
in needle punched cotton batting and cotton fabric. 

Spicer Art Conservation provides repair, stabilization and preservation of textile, object and paper artifacts
The two-piece shoe insert, custom created for an individual shoe

Archival materials are necessary for the safe, long-term preservation of artifacts. Professional art conservation includes stabilization, repair, storage, and exhibit of heirlooms, antiques, museum collections, and historic artifacts.
The foot outlines and heal outlines with conservators double-sided tape to provide
conservation approved adhesion of the ethafoam foot support
Storage and stabilization of a Child's 19th century leather boot artifact with custom made archival insert. Professional conservator Gwen Spicer is an expert in the care of textile, object and paper artifacts at Spicer Art Conservation in Upstate New York. Exhibit, storage and safe handling.
A custom made insert and the very small leather boot it was created for.

When a collection is to be displayed, the artifacts require the best possible support to allow them to be seen fully. When possible, we design mounts or internal structural supports to also be used for storage of the object. This dual purpose allows for the best possible care of the artifact, while minimizing any handling of the object as the inserts never need to be removed for storage.

Many times we are asked about constructing supports and mounts and what materials are best. Conservators only use archival materials, which are supplies that have been tested and proven to be inert and to not cause harm to an artifact.

For a list of materials and to better understand what exactly is meant by "Acid Free", please see our blog entry, "What is Acid Free". For a list of archival materials, see our blog entry,  "Glossary for Safe Storage Materials" - here you can review a lengthy list of materials that are used for artifact storage and mount making.

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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