Monthly Archives: November 2014

Trade Banners from Maine Charitable Mechanics Association

In October 8, 1841, Portland’s “Maine Charitable Mechanics Association” held what proved to be the most lavish parade in its history. Prominent that day were 17 painted linen banners that each represent a different guild of skilled craftsman. The majority of the banners were painted by a member of the Association, William Capen, Jr.


These banners are now housed at the Maine Historical Society, Portland, Maine. More can be learned by going to Maine Memory. The project was to establish a system to both store and display these unusual two-sided banners.

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The banners are in remarkable condition for their 170 year age. In raking light the extent of creases and folds can be easily seen from years of being rolled in storage. 


Cleaning of this banner started on the right side in the images above. See the soot that has been removed over the word “LIVE” of the Ship Builder’s Banner.

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The treated and mounted banners were all stored in their customized storage rack.


Edison Tin-Foil

Spicer Art Conservation is pleased to be part of the efforts to recover the earliest recorded sounds dating from 1878. On June 20, 1878, in St Louis, Thomas Edison’s phonograph is demonstrated to an audience. The recording from that demonstration was captured on a piece of tin-foil which was later folded and stuffed into an envelope where it stayed until it was found in the miSci (formerly Schenectady Museum) archives. The Museum wanted to make it readable again and was told it could be done, but only if the ripped, creased, and crushed pieces of the foil could be flattened. miSci contacted Spicer Art Conservation and we were thrilled to take on such a unique task. Once it left our studios it went to California’s Berkeley Lab where it was read by scanning the surface. Now, finally the sound has been revealed. The 1+ minute recording consists of a brass instrumental, the recitation of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Old Mother Hubbard” along with some laughter and inaudible speech. A more detailed account can be read on our blog at: Inside the Conservator’s Studio and a viewing of the unveiling event can be watched at:

Below is the before image of a full sheet of “Tinfoil”.


The tinfoil phonograph was developed in 1877 and consisted of a brass cylindrical mouthpiece closed by a membrane of parchment or goldbeater’s skin using a steel stylus with a sharp chisel-shaped edge at its center.

Read more about Edison’s amazing invention here: Inside the Conservator’s Studio.

Below, the after treatment image of the flattened Tin-Foil. A custom made travel box has been created for the sheet to be safely hand carried to its next phase.

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Harness Silks

Spicer Art Conservation, LLC stabilized the fragile racing silks from the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame. The large collection was first surveyed and the jackets and caps were prioritized by condition. The silk fibers of the collection show signs of deterioration from hard use by the original owners. To read more about the rehousing, storage, and treatment of this collection, click here.

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After treatment photo of silk racing jacket, with padded inserts

During the treatment of the deteriorated silk caps, the threads were aligned and secured. Custom storage pillows were made for each arm and body of the jacket, as well as for the internal support of each hat.


This cap’s brim was completely fragmented. The various pieces were assembled and supported with inert and archival materials.

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After treatment photograph of the hat with brim repaired.

18th Century Chair

The Bronck Museum recently acquired this early 18th century chair from a descendent of the 1663 stone house. The chair was covered with red silk and cotton fabric. A companion chair is owned by the Albany Institute & History of Art and still retains its original leather upholstery.

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Before treatment image of the chair

Protected on the reverse side of the red velvet are small pieces of the embroidery threads used to decorate the chair’s back. The design had been worked with chenille threads.

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Nicely attached to the underside of the chair’s seat was this leather fragment (top image). The leather had originally been attached to the lower section of the inside back (middle image). The holes in the leather perfectly matched the holes in the wood frame that were revealed once the red velvet upholstery layers were removed. Leather was a common upholstery show cover for this time period. The chair back also has an interesting slot located just below the crest rail to accommodate the leather/show cover.

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Placing the final touches. Each brass nail head was carefully positioned over its original position.