Behind the Scenes in Conservation: the Needlework Needs Work

School is out for the year, but when this American sampler was made in about 1815, many young girls didn’t go to school at all.  Instead, young women were expected to learn essential skills and crafts which would make them suitable wives and mothers.  The stitching of samplers like this one was a chance for girls to practice one such highly desirable skill: intricate needlework.  Samplers often feature alphabets, Bible verse, and decorative elements.  This one lists the names of several members of the Morrell family and some of their birth and death dates.  We don’t know for certain who made it, but it was likely a young woman of the family.  Here, it is undergoing some gentle cleaning by our textile conservator to reduce the brownish discoloration staining the linen ground.  The stain material transfers to highly absorbent blotting paper.  The greenish block are glass weights, used to help flatten the edges and protect the dark green embroidery thread from the mist being used on the discolored ground.  The sampler will also undergo treatment to support its damaged edges.  When work is complete, you will be able to see it in the American Folk Art Gallery this fall.