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Monday, May 16 • 9:00am - 9:30am
(Textiles) A Biological Disaster to Costume

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Natural disasters come in many forms, but rarely is an entire museum’s collection inundated with a predatory insect infestation. In the fall of 2006, the Smithsonian’s newest museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), initially requested that the Museum Conservation Institute (MCI) assess and evaluate the condition of the Black Fashion Museum (BFM) in Washington, D.C. Its former director and owner, Lois K. Alexander Lane, had traveled the United States collecting garments that were designed, sewn, and, or worn by African Americans spanning the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. She headed the Harlem Institute of Fashion before founding the BFM and moving the collection to Washington, D.C. However Lane was now incapacitated; while the family continued to manage the collection they found it overwhelming. Her daughter sought to donate the collection in its entirety to the new Smithsonian NMAAHC. The BFM filled a two-story townhouse with costume and accessories. When the Smithsonian inspected and evaluated the collection it was stored in a closed environment and infested with live carpet beetles in all stages, along with spiders. This paper will recount the survey, removal, initial treatment, and rehousing for this stunning collection that took place during 2007-2014 and the numerous participants in the early stages of BFM’s recovery.

avatar for Cathleen Zaret

Cathleen Zaret

Textile Conservator, Zaret Textile and Costume Conservation LLC
Cathleen Zaret launched her private practice Zaret Textile & Costume Conservation LLC in November of 2015 and since then has been conserving and mounting three-dimensional and flat textiles for museums and private clients in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia. She was an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Textile Conservation at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian from September 2013 to October 2015. Cathleen is a... Read More →


Carol Grissom

Senior Objects Conservator, Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute
Carol A. Grissom has been Senior Objects Conservator at MCI since 1984. She received a B.A. in art history from Wellesley College and an M.A. in art conservation from Oberlin College. She then took advanced training at the national conservation institutes of Belgium and Italy and worked as a conservator for earthquake-damaged objects in Italy, outdoor sculpture, and special exhibitions. Her current area of interest is in the conservation of... Read More →
avatar for Mary W. Ballard

Mary W. Ballard

Senior Textiles Conservator, Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute
Mary Ballard received her BA in art history from Wellesley College and her MA from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University as well as her certificate in conservation from its Conservation Center. She has been at the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute (formerly CAL) since 1984. She is a licensed pest control operator in the state of Maryland for the categories of fumigation and demonstration/research.

Monday May 16, 2016 9:00am - 9:30am
Room 511 A/D

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