Conference Review from AIC News Jan 2001 (vol. 26, no.1):

Textile conservators from around the world met in Asheville, North Carolina, in March 2000 for the second North American Textile Conservation Conference. The theme of the conference was collaboration among textile conservators and professionals from allied fields.

The program began with a keynote address by Dr. Elizabeth Wayland Barber, who described the excavations of the mummies in Chinese Turkistan and the fascinating theories that account for these mummies' decidedly western-looking features and textiles.

In the first of several papers concerning costumes, Cara Varnell described the conservation of the lion skin costume for the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz. The project called on the talents of objects conservator, Irena Calinescu, as well as Hollywood prop and special effects artists for the fabrication of a suitable display mannequin and backdrop. Nancy Buenger described the characters and artifacts connected to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, including the blood-spattered cloak that Mary Todd Lincoln allegedly wore that night. She reported on the results of discussions among historians, forensic scientists, and preservation staff regarding the usefulness of DNA testing for the purpose of artifact authentication. Sylvie François outlined the challenges and constraints encountered when developing a conservation strategy for costumes belonging to the active theater company, Cirque du Soleil.

Three papers comprised a session on archaeological textiles. Bárbara Cases Contreras and Ana María Rojas Zepeda told the fascinating story of replicating (in 10 days!) a prehistoric infant-mummy for a traveling exhibition. Thomas Braun described the collaborative work behind an exhibition at the Arizona State Museum of a collection of archeological woven sandals from the southwestern United States. Olga Negnevitsky reported in detail on the process of treating and studying a bundle of archeological textiles found in a cave in the Judean Desert in 1993.

Four papers examined collaborations related to flat textiles. Sara Foskett detailed the challenges of dealing with architects, designers, engineers, and installers when designing frames for banners for the new National Museums of Scotland. She concluded with a set of 10 lessons learned, an excellent list for any conservator involved with exhibition or museum development. Joy Gardiner presented the results of a collaborative research project that used x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy to identify mineral dyes on quilts. Sara Reiter described the production of a full cotton support painted with textile inks for a mid 18th-century printed bedcover exhibiting extensive losses. Jan Vuori reported the results of a collaborative stain removal treatment using sodium borohydride for a large Matisse silk-screen.

The final session covered topics related to textiles in interior spaces. Robin Hanson detailed the conservation and construction of a display mount for a group of Italian nativity figures that are displayed at the White House. Jennifer Barnett discussed the collaboration with interior decorator Jan Ruys regarding the conservation and reconstruction of the furnishing textiles for a 1930s Dutch town hall. Judith Eisenberg described the treatment and installation of a large painted sukkah hanging completed with paintings conservator, Harriet Ingang. Susan Mathison compared American and Italian approaches to textile conservation as they affected textiles conservation in the Villa La Pietra collection, owned by New York University.

A number of posters were also displayed at the conference. Topics included the effect of pose on the strain sustained by mannequins (E. Haldane), collaboration with dry cleaners (K. Kiefer and J. Scheer), the use of microfading tests in designing a display case for a rare embroidered mantelpiece (M. Montague), the treatment of a Mexican huipil and a seat covering of a Hapsburg ceremonial carriage (L. Roman and A. Gutierrez), the preservation of Peruvian archeological textiles (K. Lizarraga), and the investigation of the structure and symbolism of an embroidered textile mosaic (I. Cretu and M. Lupu).

The illustrated conference preprints, containing the full text of all papers presented (except for the keynote address) and abstracts of the posters, are available from both Archetype Books and University Products.

-Irene Karsten, Doctoral Student, Textile Conservation, Department of Human Ecology, 3-02 Human Ecology Building, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2N1.

Courtesy of the American Institute of Conservation for Art & Historic Works (AIC). Website:

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