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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: African Doll

by Conservation


behind the scenes , conservation , textile conservation , African Art Gallery , conservation lab

textile conservation of a doll’s clothes


What is it like to be a textile conservator?  This “conservator’s-eye-view” shows a glimpse into life in the textile conservation lab, where this week our textile conservator is repairing a cotton skirt that belongs to a ceremonial African doll.  The doll’s cotton calico skirt (the red textile in the center of the workbench) has been damaged by the dye used to print the dark brown flowers:  the dye weakened the fibers so much that many of the printed flowers have fallen out of the skirt, leaving unsightly and vulnerable holes.  You can see the flower-shape of the holes where the white workboard is behind them.  Appropriate fabric has been dyed to match and patches are being attached to mimic the design where it has been lost and to fill in the skirt so it looks complete.  The light brown fabric will form the missing flower print and the red fabric will form the missing ground.  Look for one light brown patch already in place.  The blue box on the left is a control unit for the heated spatulas (sitting on top of it) that are used to activate a conservation adhesive (which is in sheets like the scrap of one on the right) being used to hold the patches in place.  Bits of mylar (used to make patterns of the patches to be cut) and other tools of the textile conservator’s trade are nearby.  Come see the doll, newly installed in the African gallery!

Image Credit: Doll, Late 19th Century-Early 20th Century, Sudan, wood, mud, resin, cotton, yarns, glass beads, coins, buttons, bells, metal, coral, Cincinnati Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Charles Fleischmann and Mrs. Julius Fleischmann, 1911.1760.