This week the objects conservation lab is full of samurai armor. This suit of armor, donated to the museum in the late 1800’s, has never received conservation treatment or been on display. As a result it has years of dirt and grime obscuring the decorative surface patterns and colors. Japanese Samurai armor is prone to conservation problems due to the wide range of materials used to make them that degrade each other over time. For example, in this picture you can see heavy chain mail and lacquered iron plates hanging from a delicate silk support. The iron elements have begun to rust causing cracking to the once seamless lacquered surface and weakening the silk support. In addition to cleaning the suits of armor, the conservator will need to stabilize the rusting elements, consolidate the cracking lacquer, and repair the fragile textiles so it can support the weight of the heavy iron mail. Once the treatment is finished the beautiful colors of the silk should be visible and the suit will look wearable once more!
Image: Japan; Detail, Suit of Armor; Gift of Mrs. Enoch T. Carson through Women’s Art Museum Association; 1881.152