Past Talks

Caring for the Textile Collection at the Museum Resource Centre

Date: 20th September 2010
Speaker: Samantha van de Geer

The Meeting was held at St Edburg’s Church Hall, Bicester. Fifty five members and six guests were present at the meeting. Bob Hessian conducted the Annual General Meeting of the Society before introducing the speaker, Samantha van de Geer who worked as the textile conservator at the Museum Resource Centre at Standlake.

Standlake Museum Resources Centre is run by Oxfordshire County Council and the organisation works closely with local museums such as Abingdon, Banbury and the Museum of Oxford. There are over sixty thousand items at the Store and tasks relating to documentation, photography, design and conservation are part of the work undertaken at the Centre.

Many of the textile items are stored in air-conditioned facilities or in the main storage area at the Centre. Public advice is offered regarding conservation of textiles. There are two ‘Open Days’ each year and the public can visit to view items in the research collections. The centre also carries out commercial work. Study Days are organised to enable students to learn skills such as leather working. The Centre is able to offer loans to museums and local organisations.

A diverse textile collection including shoes, gloves, dresses, coats etc. is held at the Store. It is policy to expand the collection adding items such as ‘Oxford Bag’ trousers if they became available. Parts of the collection reflect the work of local industries such as glove or blanket making enterprises.

Items contained within the collection that display a Bicester theme include a pin cushion, lace bobbin and wedding dress owned by Mrs Busby of Lawn Farm and dating from 1914. There are English Civil War collections that feature a buff coat, a Baldrick, saddle, pistol holders, shoes and a hat. Significant items were obtained when the Witney Blanket making industry closed.

Much of the work of the textile conservationists centres on the preventative conservation of items. The storage environment is controlled. Light levels are maintained at subdued levels to prevent fading. Pests attracted to wool, silk, fur, feathers or skins can be frozen at -40 degrees centigrade or destroyed in the nitrogen tank. Care is taken to store items carefully in shoe boxes, using padded coat hangers or costume covers. Items are carefully labelled to reflect the collection number, date acquired, material types or associations with people and places.

Recent acquisitions to the collection have included a Scout Uniform dating from 1910 from Bicester and a Head Warden’s Civil Defence from the Second World War.

Samantha answered questions at the completion of her talk. The Meeting closed at 9:10 pm.