On February 23, 2022, I delivered three garments from the archives of the Mendon Historical Society to the department of Textiles, Merchandising, and Design (TMD) at the University of Rhode Island (URI). The department houses URI’s Historic Textile and Costume Collection and the students may choose to concentrate in historic textile conservation as a part of their TMD major. URI also offers a graduate program in this area, with advanced textile conservation as a specialization.
I met with Dr. Welters, Director of the Graduate Program and the Historic Textile and Costume Collection, and Susan Jerome, Collections Manager. The three garments I shared were a taffeta gown, a wool baseball uniform, and a silk flapper dress. Each piece was unique and beautiful in their own right, but required some attention in terms of conservation. Each garment was evaluated for age and condition, along with preliminary recommendations for care.
Taffeta Dress circa 1850s -Pagoda sleeves, fully lined, intricate ribbon detail -Missing white collar and "under sleeves" to make a complete ensemble Recommendations: needs improved archival storage, no additional work necessary
Silk Flapper Dress circa late 1920's -Silk Chiffon dress with silk slip lining, rhinestone applique and silk sash -Silk is deteriorating, especially inner liner, which needs replacing Reccommendation: Replace silk liner with replica of same quality, repair damage and clean
Wool Baseball Uniform circa 1880 -a rare and early example of a baseball uniform as the sport began to increase in popularity -Wool with rubber buttons, some missing/replaced Recommendation: Needs cleaning, some damage from insects
Based on the preliminary feedback from Dr. Welters and Ms. Jerome, I have left the flapper dress and baseball uniform with the department to undergo a formal evaluation and appraisal, along with a proposal for conservation and anticipated costs. The Historical Society will also invest in appropriate archival materials, such as acid free storage boxes and paper, to prevent further deterioration of these and other textile-based items in our collection.
We look forward to hearing back from the TMD department on their findings and hope to share these garments in our collection once the Mendon Historical Society Museum reopens to the public.
Emily Huber (2015 graduate of the University of Rhode Island, Master of Science: Textiles, Merchandising, and Design)