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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Jacquard Loom Blanket

by Obie Linn, Associate Conservator of Textiles


CAMConservation , textile conservation , jacquard , american coverlets , delaware ohio

Does crisp spring weather make you crave a snuggly blanket? The Cincinnati Art Museum has several! You might not think of blankets as “art,” but this cotton coverlet is one of coverlets currently in the collection. If the double-woven structure and cotton and wool yarns seems familiar, it could be because this art form continues today, maintaining a tradition that first flourished in the mid- 1800s. These textiles were created using a “jacquard loom” that used punch cards to operate the loom. The jacquard loom is often cited as one of the first modern computers for translating a sequence of complex steps into a binary language: “punched hole” or “no hole” for the loom, ones and zeros for computers.

We brought this example to the textile conservation lab to upgrade its method of storage. The coverlets are all stored rolled around a rigid, cardboard tube; this one received a new archival tube and fresh tissue paper interleaving between the roll layers in addition to a final exterior wrap in clean muslin and plastic sheeting to protect it in storage. Rerolling also provided a good opportunity to upgrade another aspect of collection care: documentation. We took photographs, measurements, and notes on its condition and entered all the information in the museum’s collection database.

Several coverlets underwent care, but this one stands out for its woven “signature” with a date and place of its “birth”: Gabriel Rauscher, May 10, 1850, Delaware, Ohio. This coverlet’s 173rd birthday is coming up!