I was contacted late last year by Marie Gorie from the Gulgong Pioneers Museum about a project she was about to undertake. She wanted to re-order the textile store. Maintaining a collection store takes a lot of time and resources and obviously, as the collection grew, some of the maintenance had slipped.
It was a daunting task but her friend, Susan Nicholl tackled it with her. The room had to be cleared out first so that it could be thoroughly cleaned. Marie and Susan unpacked everything and put the objects into categories. They discovered lots of treasures but also found some items that were beyond repair. One box contained a lot of disintegrated ostrich feathers, but hidden underneath was a 1930s men’s knitted swimming costume. Another item that was unearthed from a crumpled bag was the Grimshaw wedding dress from 1910 which they steamed to reduce the wrinkles.
Marie and Susan brush vacuumed the items (except for the very fragile ones) and undertook washing some of the white cotton items. Items that were strong enough were hung on new padded coat-hangers. The trousers were hung on padded trouser hangers.
The fragile dresses were wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and stored in some of the new polyethylene textile storage boxes that Marie had ordered. Other items were placed on shelves and draw string curtains were made to cover the shelves – thus protecting the objects from dust, light and as an extra barrier against humidity changes.
Marie and Susan plan on getting more acid free boxes, when funds allow, so that the objects currently stored in acidic boxes can be transferred into better storage conditions.
With a re-ordered store room, they can now keep an eye on insect activity and have placed insect traps in key areas around the room.
Marie and Susan have recently completed a week long internship with us, focusing on textile conservation and the Australian Dress Register(ADR). They will be placing some of their interesting items on the ADR shortly.
After three intensive months, the textile store is completed and order has been restored. Marie and Susan did a wonderful job in re-organising the store. There are many wonderful museum volunteers around the country that give up their time so generously and do amazing jobs to help preserve our rich heritage. I would like to acknowledge Marie and Susan’s hard work and congratulate them for their amazing achievement.