Written by: Bevan O’Daly, 2nd year student at the Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History, University of Glasgow, and Student Representative for the ICON Textile Group.

Photos by: Stella Gardener and Gwen Spicer

The Assembly Rooms, Bath. England, 27th March 2017.

Textile conservators and other museum professionals traveled from all corners of the UK, and abroad to attend the ICON Textile Group Forum in March. The event took place in the beautiful Assembly Rooms in Bath. Bath is located in the South-West of England, surrounded by the picturesque countryside of Somerset. Bath is most famous for its 18th century honey-coloured architecture and original Roman baths, and is home to a wide variety of museums including The Fashion Museum, and the American Museum in Britain.

Poster Session

The forum is an annual event coordinated by the ICON Textile Group. Alison Lister, Chairman of the group opened the day’s proceedings with the AGM in the morning before the forum got underway. The first half of the day was themed ‘From Boxes to Buildings: Creative Solutions for the Storage of Textiles and Dress’, followed by an afternoon of presentations under more general themes. This invited an exciting and diverse range of projects that have materialised in the last year. A total of thirteen papers were presented in four sessions in the Tea Room, and ten posters were on display for viewing in the Octagon Room.

Alison Draper ACR, conservator at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections (MMUSC) presented a curious paper entitled ‘A History of the Future – Storing a Popular Cultural Collection.’ MMUSC received a large donation of punk clothing, accessories, posters and other collectibles from Malcolm Garrett, graphic designer at Royal Designer for Industry (RDI). Alison’s paper focused on conservation challenges such as the complex matter of odour, pertinent to the provenance of certain textiles. Alison also expressed the challenges she faced when designing suitable storage for the collection and making it accessible to the public, especially for high-profile textiles such as those designed by Vivienne Westwood. Her presentation was lively and was illustrated using a range of compelling and provocative imagery that intrigued the audience, and encouraged discussion between delegates after.

Sarah Glenn, Senior Textile Conservator at the V&A eloquently spoke about ‘Storage Techniques for Art, Science and History Collections’ on behalf of authors Rachael Perkins Arenstein and Lisa Goldberg. STASHc.com is an online resource for collection storage that encourages users to share a bank ideas and storage solutions for collection care. The presentation offered a detailed introduction to the website, especially useful for those unfamiliar with the resource, and highlighted the importance and benefits of skill sharing across all museum professional disciplines.

Heather and Frances demonstrating various samples of cloth.

Frances Hartog, Senior Textile Conservator at the V&A, and Heather Porter, Senior Conservator of Upholstery, at The National Trust presented a paper together on ‘The Powers of the Microfibre Cloth’. Hartog and Porter took turns at discussing their search to find an alternative method of wet cleaning that did not involve full immersion in water. The energetic duo described and showcased a collection of micro fibre cloths they had tried and tested when damp, with and without detergent. A short video clip showed them and Textile Conservator Zenzie Tinker successfully removing embedded soiling from 18th Century wool velvet upholstered furniture in situ. Their presentation was thoroughly informative and entertaining. 

Gwen Spicer, of Spicer Art Conservation, LLC traveled to England from the United States to present her paper, ‘The Principles of Creating a Magnetic Mounting System: The Physics Every Conservator Needs to Know.’ As magnets are becoming more and more popular for use in conservation it is critical that conservators know the differences between magnets and their properties. Given her in-depth knowledge and expertise, Gwen spoke with great enthusiasm for the subject, and delivered a concise yet detailed account of the types of magnets available, and gave an insight into how

Magnet Systems presentation by Gwen Spicer

‘magnetic systems’ actually work. Her talk provided conservators with great food for thought if, and when deciding to use magnets as part of a conservation treatment or display system in the future.

An informal drinks reception was held in the Octagon Room once the presentations came to an end. The Assembly Rooms also generously offered delegates free entry into their current exhibitions, ‘A History of Fashion in 100 Objects’ and ‘Lace in Fashion.’ The daylong event was a wonderful opportunity for emerging and established professionals to come together and share their knowledge and experiences, and help to build professional relationships both nationally and internationally.

Next year’s forum will be themed ‘Textiles and Nature,’ Call for papers will open early 2018.


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