Improving the safety and accessibility of the Textile and Fashion Arts collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Hat collection at MFA Boston
The MFA’s collection was started when New England was the center of the US textile industry. Today the Museum owns more than 40,000 examples of the textile and fashion arts ranging from American needlepoint to European tapestries, Middle Eastern rugs, African kente cloths, and haute couture fashions.
The collection of hats and headwear numbers about 1,000 and ranges from 18th century men’s and women’s fashionable headgear to contemporary couture.
Hat stored on lifting board
Instead of a tray, a simple lifting board is used for this hat. The board is cut slightly larger than the perimeter of the hat to protect the edges of the hat in storage, and ribbons are rolled onto tubes of acid free paper. The human-like form of the mount showcases how the hat would look worn and reduces the need for handling or dressing.
Headdress stored on tyvek-covered foam form
The same technique is used for this headdress and matching corsage, both mounted on a Tyvek-covered foam form. The headdress is pinned in place with long L-pins padded with silicone tubing, and the corsage has its own built-in pin that slips into a loop of twill tape attached to the mount.
Hat stored flat
This hat rests on a padded lifting board with a twill tape loop attached. A pillow covered with polyester stockinet sits inside the cap, and another pillow is placed between raised ribbon layers. The long ends of the ribbon are rolled onto tubes of acid-free paper and secured with twill tape.
Written by Karen Gausch and Joel Thompson.
Drawings by Karen Gausch.
Karen Gausch earned a BFA in fine art from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY, in 1983 and has been working in the museum exhibition field for more than 20 years. She has worked with private and corporate collections, among them the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt Museum and PepsiCo. Her experiences in fabricating mounting systems span an array of collections, from ancient to contemporary, fine and decorative arts. Gausch joined the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 1995 where she became Exhibition Preparation Collections Care Manager, Objects. In 2006 she became Chief Preparator of Collections Management at the Harvard University Art Museums.
Joel Thompson received her Masters in Art Conservation from the Art Conservation Department of the State University College at Buffalo in 2000. She has worked as Exhibits Conservator at the Field Museum of Natural History and as Textile and Objects Conservator at the Chicago Historical Society. Thompson is currently Associate Conservator in the Textile Conservation Lab at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
The authors would like to acknowledge the generous funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services that made this project possible. Several individuals gave generously of their time and expertise in sharing their ideas including Chris Paulocik of the Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nobuko Kajitani, Lucy Commoner of the Cooper Hewitt National Museum of Design, Glenn Peterson of the Fashion Institute of Technology, and Susan Heald of the National Museum of the American Indian. Many aspects of the prototype mount designs are not unique to the MFA, but built on the inventive work of others; the authors extend appreciation and recognition to these people. Thanks are due to Meredith Montague, Head of the Textile Conservation at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, for leading this project from inception to completion. The authors also thank Arthur Beale, former Chair of Conservation and Collections Management for his guidance, encouragement, and support of these efforts. Finally, tremendous thanks are due to the many staff members who not only brought these projects to successful completion, but also enriched the initial designs with their collective knowledge and experience. These staff members include Claudia Iannuccilli, Becky Fifield, Maryann Sadagopan, Elizabeth Hill, Allison Hewey, and Allison Sloan-Murphy.