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Wednesday, May 31 • 11:30am - 12:00pm
(Textiles) A Treatment Returns Undone

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Often treatments do not go as planned. Well thought out treatment proposals often need a small or sometimes a large change of plan as the work unfolds. We do our best and the outcome is usually successful. Completion of a treatment for conservators in private practice includes instructing the client on how to care the object, and then it's out of our hands. Occasionally, the intended treatment does not go as planned due to the actions of the object's owners. This was the case of an Onodagah/Iraqis feathered headdress I treated 17 years ago. The ceremonial headdress was made and presented to the owner's grandfather in 1930 in honor of his friendship and service to the tribe. The headdress, a man's felt hat decorated with 28 eagle feathers and beadwork, was in poor condition. The hat was fragile and many of the feathers were detached. The headdress was covered in dust and there was extensive loss of feathers due to insect damage. The family admitted that the headdress had never been protected and confessed that it had often been worn for the carving of the turkey at Thanksgiving. The treatment included surface vacuuming, cleaning and stabilizing the beadwork, reattaching feathers to the hat and constructing a solid interior mount for support, The interior mount was also attached to a solid baseboard to help support the lower feathers. The owners picked it up and promised to protect it in an exhibit case. In 2016 I received a referral through the University of Pennsylvania Museum about treating a ceremonial feathered headdress. It was the same headdress, and now it was in very poor condition. The hat was more fragile, and more feathers were detached. The headdress was again covered in dust and there was more loss of feathers due to insect damage. Also, part of the mount was missing. The owner's were extremely embarrassed and were determined to have the headdress conserved and properly protected. A new treatment was devised to attach the feathers through the hat into a solid interior mount for stabilization. This treatment did not go as planned. The owners felt that attaching the headdress to the solid mount would make it a sculpture. They wanted the headdress to be removable from the solid mount in keeping with it's original intent. Eventually a compromise was reached that satisfied both conservator and clients. The owners have built a glass front bookcase to protect the headdress. As they wisely said, "We can't do this again”.


Nancy Love, [PA]

Owner, Philadelphia Textile Conservation
Nancy Love is the owner of Philadelphia Textile Conservation. She specializes in historic and ethnographic textiles and costumes. She is a Professional Associate of the AIC and a member of the Philadelphia Art Conservation Association. Nancy received her Masters of Art Conservation... Read More →

Wednesday May 31, 2017 11:30am - 12:00pm CDT
Crystal Ballroom C Lobby Level, West Tower