Looking at ways to house our rich and diverse collection of dress accessories have always been a constant challenge. When an area of the basement store was set aside for the storage of dress and accessories in the early 1980s, we were at the forefront. A quarter of a century later some of the methods that were adopted, now appear tired and in need of attention.
Our fan collection is currently stored in commercially purchased polypropylene trays that sit inside metal cupboards.
We are fortunate to have a beautiful collection of European and Non European fans dating from the 18th Century. On guided tours, the fan collection is a highlight as visitors often are in awe of these intricate artworks. Unfortunately, the aged plastic trays are slightly too wide for the cupboards and difficult to manoeuvre due to their size.
One of my all time favourites is the Italian fan featuring Apollo and Daphne made between 1730-1760 (A5414). It shows the hand of an exceptional artist with small brushstrokes delicately executed onto vellum. The use of light and shadow is outstanding. This bucolic scene depicts the precise moment when Daphne begins transforming into a tree.
Our first task is to reduce the use of 2 trays per shelf with one custom sized tray fabricated from acid free corrugated cardboard. To prevent the fan from sliding within the tray, we adhere strips of the same corrugated cardboard outside the perimetre of the open fan. An image of the fan along with its registration number is important for effortless identification for staff and researchers. Not only does the image and number appear inside the tray but also on the outside face of the cardboard tray. A ribbon loop is added at centre front to aid the unit when moving.
Since the new trays have returned into the cabinets, they have enjoyed much praise by visitors and staff. Without the over use of tissue paper and various information cards sitting beside them, the fans are able to have prominence and can be fully admired.
Written by Suzanne Chee, Conservation Department