Monthly Archives: December 2014

Theater Curtain, O’Keefe Opera House


This hand painted theatre curtain came from the Johnsburg Historical Society. It had been used at the O’Keefe Opera House during the early 20th century, and was being treated in preparation for display at the Tannery Pond Community Center in North Creek. The central section, which featured a waterfront scene and advertisements, had had a primer and ground layer applied at the time of fabrication. However, the painted drapery had no such ground, which resulted in the light bound media leaching into the cotton fabric and thus creating a very powdery, almost pastel like paint.


The powdering paint in this section needed to be consolidated which was achieved with an airbrush that created a gentle and thin layer of adhesive. Following consolidation, the surface was lightly cleaned. Distortions in the fabric were removed with the introduction of moistureand then tears and holes were repaired after realigning fibers. Following repairs, the curtain was prepared for hanging by having Velcro attached to webbing and then sewn onto the curtain with a herringbone stitch.

Hunzinger Chair re-tufted with magnets

An upholstery conservation treatment of this Hunzinger chair was prepared for an exhibition The Fabrics of the Home that opened April 2009 through August 2009. The goal of the treatment is to return the current square seat to its original profile with a deep tufted seat. The methods used to create the deep tufting in the seat was presented at the North American Textile Conservation Conference, Quebec City, Canada in September 2009. In order not to disturb the original lashing ties and springs, Rare Earth magnets were used in replacement of the buttons. (more can be read about the use of magnets in conservation here).



The Hunzinger Chair before treatment, with the show cover and seat cake removed, and during treatment.  

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A matching Hunzinger Chair owned by the Brooklyn Museum of Art on the left.

Collection Storage & Environment Survey, Long Island Museum


Spicer Art Conservation, LLC surveyed the storage and environment of the collections at the Long Island Museum, in Stony Brook, NY, a renown carriage, art and history collection. The project was funded by NEH Preservation Assistant grant. During a two day site-visit all of the collection areas on LIM’s campus were surveyed. A preservation plan was prepared to update their collection storage, displays and environment.  (Read more about the storage of saddles on our blog, “Inside the Conservator’s Studio”.)

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Carriage storage and Gwen Spicer with museum staff examining historic structures on-site. 

4th Regiment USCT Civil War Flag , Maryland Historical Society

The 4th Regiment was from Maryland, consisting of troops who were about half free men and the other half comprising of liberated and fugitive slaves. This flag is one of fewer than 25 flags from US Colored Infantry Troops to survive the Civil War. (More on the flags of USCT can be found on our blog)

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The flag, in Maryland Historical Society’s collection, is remarkable complete. The canton is made of two-layers of blue silk fabric. The hoist is wool damask with pink silk ribbon ties. Gold silk bullion fringe remains along the upper edge.


After the flag was cleaned, humidified and encapsulated between layers of fine net, the flag was positioned onto the prepared pressure mount. A custom window was positioned to fully show the painted eagle on the reverse side.

Oil on Paper

The paper support of this small oil landscape was quite weak and was easily torn. The owner had made several attempts to repair the tears and losses using various types of tape. During one of these repair campaigns, the face of the window mat was also painted white. 

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Before treatment obverse
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Before treatment reverse

The photo below shows detail of the damaged corner and the owner’s attempt at repair with two types of tape. The large loss had also been backed with colored paper.

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At the conservation studio, the window mat was removed before the careful removal of the many layers of tape. The tears were realigned and then secured with archival materials. The loss was filled and the surface was textured before inpainting.

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After treatment image

Large Cast Paper Work of Art

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An overall and damage of the corner with the signature.

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The plainer deformation of the work of art.

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The unsupported edge during and after treatment.

 This large cast paper work of art is inherently unstable had little structure to support beyond two horizontal wooden members. The result was extensive tears and planer deformations throughout the art work. It was humidified overall, the tears were mended and the outer edges were backed. A solid support was custom made for the art work.

Chautauqua Literary & Scientific Circle’s Banner Collection

The Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle (CLSC), founded in 1882, has produced a banner every year to celebrate the culmination of each years graduating class. This unique and diverse collection represents artistic and fiber arts technology over the course of a century and a quarter. The inclusion of mottoes also reflects the thinking of the time. This collection continues to expand. The banners are hung on the walls of Alumni Hall and are carried in the annual Recognition Day Parade.

Spicer Art Conservation, LLC began assisting the Banner Committee in 2000 with a survey of the banners’ condition. The environment of Alumni Hall was monitored as part of the development of long-term recommendations for the proper care of the collection. The focus of the project quickly moved from individual treatment to proper storage and preventive care for the collection. Policies and procedures needed to be developed that addressed the use of the collection.


Gwen Spicer, over several years, gave talks and conducted workshops to train the committee members on the care and storage techniques that were specially developed for the collection. This enabled the Banner Committee to divide the banners into groups that included inactive, soon-to-be inactive, and active banners. The active banners remain hanging on the walls of Alumni Hall and are carried in the parade. 


The Chautauqua Institution expanded their Oliver Archives Center to include a room for the storage of the banner collection. The storage was designed for the inactive and soon-to-be inactive banners.  The facility was designed for each banner to have its own shelf (using InterMetro Industries shelving) and supported on a sturdy handling tray. Each shelf unit was given a dust cover and placed on caster wheels (see photos below). The next phase of the project will be to design a display system for the collection.  To read more about this type of storage and others to compare, read our blog post at Inside the Conservator’s Studio.



Curtain Survey, Harry S. Truman Home, NPS

Spicer Art Conservation, LL examined the textile window curtains used in the Harry S. Truman home in Independence Missouri. Each curtain in the house was fully surveyed, conditioned, storage solutions proposed, prioritized and possible reproduction fabrics identified. The work was performed both in the house during opening hours and in collection storage. 

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Here is a view of Harry and Bess Truman’s home today and with Mr. Truman in front. Possibly our last Citizen President. Harry and Bess on their wedding day. The couple lived in the home with Bess’s mother and extended family. It was not till after they moved back from the White House did they lived in the house alone.

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The survey of the curtain collections occurred in both the house and in storage. During the full week we had the best helpers from the site. Each of the curtains were photographed overall. Those in good condition could hang. However, the ones in poor condition were all documented flat on large worktables.



Suitable replacement fabrics were found for each of the room’s curtains.

Philip Johnson’s Brick House

Spicer Art Conservation, LLC examined and proposed treatments for the textiles in Philip Johnson’s Brick House adjacent to his private home, The Glass House. This is part of a house wide preservation project for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Glass House complex is a registered National Historic Landmark, considered one of the most significant architectural resources of the Modernist period. A video of the Brick House and the site can be seen on YouTube.


The Brick house is divided into two rooms, a large guest room with walls covered in Fortuny Fabric and a study or reading room. The fabric is a cotton twill that is dyed, printed, and highlighted with printed gild work. The interior design of the bedroom lead Johnson to use similar architectural elements in later projects. He placed the same pink and gold Fortuny Fabric (pictured below) in the woman’s bathroom of the Four Season Restaurant only a few years later. Johnson also placed Fortuny Fabric on the walls of the dining room of the Beck House designed in Dallas TX.

Detail image of the cleaning of the Fortuny Fabric.

Gwen Spicer gave a talk “Decoding the History of the Fortuny Fabric at Philip Johnson’s Brick House Interior” at the New England Conservation Association held at the Shelburne Museum in September of 2010. A summary of the talk can be read in the blog Inside the Conservator’s Studio.


Above left: View of the Brick House from the inside the Glass House. Above right: Front of Brick House with Art Gallery in the distance.   

Gwen Spicer examining textiles from the Glass House.


Maine State Flag Collection

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Maine’s large flag collection had been displayed in the Capitol’s rotunda from 1871 until 2003 when a new, permanent, climate-controlled space, was allocated was opened at the Maine State Museum. Each of the flags in the collection were placed on their own individual fabric covered aluminum panel (pictured below) that was used for both display and storage. This holistic project approach provided public access to the collection, while achieving a collection wide preservation plan. More can be read in a condensed version published in NemaNews and on our blog, Inside the Conservator’s Studio


The mounting and treatment of the entire flag collection was performed with the oversight of Gwen Spicer. She trained two talented workers during the three years of the project (photo below). Prior to the mounting and treatment, a condition survey of all of the flags had been performed. 

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Below, the mounted flags are housed below the display level. The flags stored in the racks below are then in place for future rotations. The rotations are slated three times a year and can be seen at their website

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