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Thursday, June 1 • 10:30am - 11:00am
(Textiles) Agarose, Two Ways: Successes and Challenges in Large Scale Gel Applications

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Agarose gels are rigid polysaccharide gels that, through capillary action, can be used as a slow, controlled cleaning method. While the gels have originally been primarily used in paper and sculpture conservation, textile conservators have recently been exploring the effectiveness of agarose gels for flat textile cleaning. It has been established that agarose gels can be the best method for cleaning if the textile requires a special chemical compound for stain removal, such as enzymes, or for stains on textiles in danger of dye bleed. Research on large-scale agarose gel applications has not yet been published. Recently, two very different types of tapestries were brought to the textile conservation lab at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine that became candidates for agarose gel treatments. A set of six William Baumgarten tapestries, dated to the 1910s, were recently discovered in a privately owned Upper West Side townhouse. They had been subjected to the normal environmental fluctuations of a New York City townhouse for almost 100 years, as well as several water pipe leaks that left dark staining. The silk wefts are so desiccated that the silk is powdering and the tapestry is far too fragile for immersive wet cleaning. It was determined that using agarose gels would possibly be the safest and most effective way of cleaning and conserving the tapestries. The second case study is a multi-colored wool Agam tapestry with a white cotton ground from the 1970s had large amounts of a hard, yellow polymer glue in thick layers along the back top and bottom edges. The glue had been used to attach a lining and was embedded in warps and wefts of the weave. During initial testing, it was determined that the red and black yarns were not colorfast, removing the possibility of a traditional immersive wet cleaning. After significant testing, it was determined that amyl acetate was necessary for the softening and removal of the glue. However, due to the dangers associated with amyl acetate, agarose gels were used as a vehicle for the application of the amyl acetate, since the gel would allow for a targeted treatment that would reduce the amount of human contact with the amyl acetate. This paper would discuss how agarose gels were used to clean two very different tapestries with very different conservation needs and the challenges and problems faced along the way.

avatar for Dana Renée Goodin

Dana Renée Goodin

Student, Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine Textile Conservation Laboratory
Dana Goodin is an assistant textile conservator at the Textile Conservation Laboratory at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. She recently earned her M.A. in Fashion and Textile Studies from the Fashion Institute of Technology, with a focus in textile conservation. Previously... Read More →

Thursday June 1, 2017 10:30am - 11:00am CDT
Crystal Ballroom C Lobby Level, West Tower