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Wednesday, May 31 • 3:30pm - 4:00pm
030. (Objects) Conservation in Miniature: The merger of museum object and historic interior in the treatment of a Victorian era dollhouse

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The conservation and restoration of antique dollhouses is an infrequently discussed theme within conservation practice. Despite there being about 172 institutions worldwide that have at least one dollhouse within their collection, publications on the subject are few and far between and typically relate to specially funded projects or exhibits. This is unfortunate as dollhouses occupy a unique intersection within conservation practice, acting as both a moveable museum object as well as a miniaturized historic interior. Although dollhouses are both portable object and architectural space, the published treatments that exist for these tiny homes often focus only on methods used within the conservation laboratory and disregard the dearth of information from the architectural and historic interior conservation sector. This paper argues for the use of architectural preservation techniques miniaturized to dollhouse size as a viable method of preserving dollhouses while simultaneously addressing the architectural qualities of these miniature homes. To demonstrate this, the author will focus on the treatment of a Victorian-era dollhouse at the Horniman Museum and Gardens in London, United Kingdom. Specifically addressed is the in-situ treatment of aged and water damaged wallpaper that was bubbling and lifting from the walls of many of the rooms in the house. The author decided to adapt a method used by wallpaper conservators to readhere the paper in-situ, so as to preserve it within its architectural context. Nevertheless, this method had to be creatively adapted in order to fit within the size of the rooms and prevent further damage caused by adhesive type. It was determined that the best way of treating the Horniman Dollhouse's wallpaper was by humidifying the paper with a medical nebulizer and injecting the lifting bubbles with 3% w/v Klucel G in acetone using a 10cc syringe and needle. Areas that had torn and were lifting were readhered with a Klucel G film, reactivated through the wallpaper with acetone and a brush. The miniaturized treatment method allowed the author to work within the size constraints of the rooms, while also maintaining the integrity of the house as a domestic space, albeit a tiny one. The results show that the adaptation of historic interior conservation techniques to the micro-scale opens up a dearth of architectural conservation literature that can be used by objects conservators, as well as allowing for the holistic treatment of dollhouses as an interior rather than a conglomeration of material types.

avatar for Sarah Giffin

Sarah Giffin

Assistant Conservator, RLA Conservation
Sarah Giffin is an assistant objects conservator for the Los Angeles studio of RLA Conservation. She graduated with an MA and an MSc in Conservation for Archaeology and Museums from University College London in 2016. Prior to working at RLA she worked for the National Park Service... Read More →

Wednesday May 31, 2017 3:30pm - 4:00pm CDT
Riverside West Exhibit Hall Exhibit Level, East Tower
  9. Poster, Objects