Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Look out for LIGHT!

by Conservation

6/3/2021

CAMConservation , textile conservation , textiles , light sensitivity , fading

The silk binding edge of this art quilt has been badly damaged by prolonged exposure to light which occurred before it came into the museum’s collection. In the first detail picture, the metal spatula is holding back the edge of the black glove so you can see the original color of the once-purple but now-grey silk binding underneath.

A second detail shows the edge folded back so you can see it unfaded on the back. The difference is dramatic! How would a bright, plum purple edge rather than the current grey one change your viewing of this object? Light damage is one of the most pervasive problems we see in conservation. It is cumulative and irreversible, so every bit of light does some tiny bit of damage and once it has happened, there is no undoing it. For this object, the faded edge is going to be treated by covering it with a new, dyed-to-match-the-original-purple silk fabric. The new fabric will be sewn on top of the original and all the button details restitched in their former positions on top of the new fabric. When it is complete, we hope to recapture the liveliness of the purple edge and this Potluck will be ready to serve once again.

Potluck, 1993, Jane Burch Cochran (1943-), United States, cotton, silk, polyester, paint, plastic, Anonymous gift, 2018.275