After photographing the two pieces selected to be in “Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity,” the next step was to complete a condition report and pack them. As curator and courier for the loan, I took part in both of these steps. Although the pieces appear to be in excellent condition in the photographs there are a number of condition issues. When items are sent off on loan, the lending institution does a thorough check of the piece’s condition. The resulting report provides a baseline to compare the condition of the object when it returns. The borrowing institution, in turn, will do a condition report when the item is received and again when it comes off exhibition. In this instance the report was performed by the Collections Manager/Registrar, Joanne Fenn and myself.
The photographs we took as part of the condition report are decidedly less flattering than the studio images seen in the last post. The blue taffeta dress has fairly severe discoloration in the underarm area. This area has turned a paler purple color. When it is dressed on the mannequin this discoloration is much less noticeable.
While this is the most obvious condition issue on this dress, it is not the most serious problem. The area where the skirt attaches to the waistband has already undergone extensive repairs. This area does not show when the dress is on the mannequin because it is concealed by the bodice. As we were performing the condition report I realized there was additional damage that was not repaired so I performed additional conservation.
Because the Kent State University Museum does not have a conservator on staff, it is among my responsibilities to perform or oversee the conservation work on our pieces.
The man’s suit needed to have one of the buttons on the back sewed back on. Additional condition problems were recorded although they did not require any additional treatment. For instance there was a slit in each of the underarm areas. These holes had already been stabilized.
Once we had thoroughly reviewed the condition of both ensembles, Joanne made copies of the reports. One copy remains in her files and another copy was included in the boxes with the garments so it could be reviewed by the staff of the Met when the pieces were unpacked.
Each of the clothing pieces was packed into a separate box: the jacket, the trousers, the bodice and the skirt. We also included the materials necessary for dressing the mannequin such as batting and tulle, as well as all of the installation items such as petticoats, a shirt, the tie and shoes, etc. I also included a little sewing kit in case of an emergency during installation in New York. An enormous amount of tissue paper was added to fill out the garments to prevent shifting and wrinkling.
The contents of each box was carefully recorded on the outside of the box to facilitate unpacking. The four boxes were then placed into a larger box which had been fitted with foam insets to prevent moving. The Met made the arrangements for the crate to be shipped to New York. The week after the shipment went out, I traveled to New York myself in order to install the pieces.
Sara Hume, Curator