The door to the Textiles and Clothing Conservation Lab, with an embroidered garment from Kashmir just visible inside the doorway.

Recently, the Library Conservation Lab staff took a tour of the Iowa State University Textiles Conservation Lab.  The lab and a new collection storage space were both built in 2007, in anticipation of teaching textiles conservation classes to students in the Department of Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management (AESHM) in the College of Human Sciences.  Unfortunately, staffing changes and budgetary constraints have put that plan on hiatus for a few years.

Suzanne LeSar shows us a European men's coat from the late 1700s.

Research Associate Suzanne LeSar, who works with the textiles and clothing collection, gave us the tour.  She designs exhibits, maintains the collection’s exhibit space, accepts accessions, weeds the collection, and somehow finds time to develop a searchable database of the collection as well.  Currently, the collection holds about 10,000 items.

Paper dress (in yellow) from the 1960s.

In the lab, which Suzanne uses as a sort of staging area for new accessions and exhibit prep, we saw Indian materials, including an embroidered handbag and an embroidered outfit from Kashmir, which will be part of an exhibit scheduled to open in mid-September.

The beaded hats in the above photo turned out to be Pakistani, and so won’t be included in this exhibit.

Seen through the window from the hallway, garments from various decades hang on a rack in the lab.

This is a teaching collection, so most of these textiles and garments are used in courses in the Apparel, Merchandising, and Design major of AESHM to teach students about different historical periods of dress and methods of clothing construction.  The compact storage includes flat drawers, shelves, and hanging bars for various types of materials.  Ethnic textiles such as saris, caftans, and other types of body wraps are best stored rolled over an acid-free support tube (see photo, below).

Support rolls for body wraps and flat textiles.

Quilts, in contrast, are never rolled because their own weight would crush the portion of the quilt on the inside of the roll.  Quilts are stored loosely folded and are opened up, shaken out, and carefully re-folded every few months to avoid stretching or straining  the fabric in any one place for too long, which could cause permanent damage.

We enjoyed this wonderful glimpse into the textiles and clothing collection with a knowledgeable tour guide.  A big thanks to Suzanne for taking the time to share her work with us.  Thanks, too, to our student employee Hope Mitchell for taking the images in this post on her iPhone.