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Challenges in conservation of historic textiles

12
Jun '09
Conservators must take special precautions with regards to historic textiles as some of the most serious threats to the integrity of the textile product seemingly comes from innocent sources-sometimes components of the textile itself.

Light can damage delicate textiles and they are also sensitive to ambient conditions, heat, cold, humidity, and fluctuations in any of these.

Oils from our hands can damage textiles, but even carefully-gloved hands can pose a threat to delicate materials. A certain mordant used in the 19th century causes fibers to become brittle when exposed to ultraviolet light. If the fabric is moved or creased, it can "shatter" or turn to powder.

'Cleaning' a garment does not improve its longevity always. Sometimes, there are hidden instructions about it in the garments. Wrong method of cleaning might weaken the dye-to-fiber bonds.

Conservators in the textile museums cannot control the components that go in to the original item or their potential for self destruction. Starch finishes attract dust, dirt, and bugs. Cellulose nitrate was commonly used to coat sequins and buttons. Hydrolysis of the compound produces nitric acid, which, in turn, degrades silk fabrics.

Modern Technology offers conservators new tools, but it also poses new challenges. Modern clothing may include plastics, circuitry, or even lotions and scents. There is also much difficulty in preserving fashion items that were never meant to last past their debut season.

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Fibre2fashion News Desk - India


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