Notes From The Conservation Lab: Preserving A One-Of-A-Kind Silk Scarf

by Scott Reinke, Preservation Administrator

I am amazed at the variety of unique materials that are housed in the Cuban Heritage Collection. We recently treated a one-of-a-kind silk scarf decorated with a portrait of José Martí. At first glance, the white silk scarf appeared to have an intricate drawing on it, but upon closer observation, the portrait was actually stitched into the delicate fabric using fine silk threads. The level of skill required to execute this work of art truly astounded me.

The scarf first arrived in the conservation lab stored folded in an archival file folder with creases in the fabric. Conservation Assistant Duvy Argandoña and I discussed our course of action before she began the treatment process. We are not textile conservators and so, for example, would not be able to address the visible brown spots on the fabric, known as foxing. But we did want to complete a conservation treatment that would allow for improved storage and accessibility of this beautiful scarf over the long term.

Using deionized water in the humidification dome, we slightly humidified and pressed the scarf between blotters under light pressure to reduce the creases. We then encapsulated it using an ultrasonic welder. This tool is used to create a sealed envelop out of polyester film that in turn protects the delicate fabric during storage and handling. This step is completely reversible so additional treatments can be undertaken in the future. After completing the treatment process, we used the conservation lab’s low magnification stereo-microscope with a 5 megapixel camera attachment to capture close-up images of stitching. Below, you can see the microscope and some of the detailed images it recorded.

After completing the treatment process, we used the conservation lab’s low magnification stereo-microscope with a 5 megapixel camera attachment to capture close-up images of stitching. Below, you can see the microscope and some of the detailed images it captured.

For more images please visit the CHC blog article

Encapsulated print of José Martí, Cuban Print Collection, Cuban Heritage Collection, University of Miami Libraries, Coral Gables, Florida. Click image to enlarge.