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Subject: Dry cleaning textiles

Dry cleaning textiles

From: Sarah Lowengard <sarahl>
Date: Thursday, February 8, 1996
Elizabeth Finney <sha5emf [at] cardiff__ac__uk> writes

>I am currently a student at the University of Wales, Cardiff
>undertaking a degree in Archaeological Conservation.  My
>undergraduate thesis is examining the effects of the dry cleaning
>process upon historic textiles.

I don't know what the situation is in the UK but here in the US
(with a few notable, vocal exceptions) dry cleaning of historic
textiles is quite common.  I and a number of my colleagues have
taken dry cleaning certification courses.  The local (NYC) dry
cleaning school has in the past offered special classes for art
conservators (I know some paintings conservators who have done them
too, mostly they work with color field paintings) and I believe the
IFI--the International Fabricare Institute, in Silver Spring,
MD--has had conservator-students as well.  In addition, there are a
few dry cleaners who specialize in conservation-grade dry cleaning,
by which I do not mean they simply hang out a shingle and then
proceed as usual (in the style of the "wedding gown preservation
specialists" here) but who have and will work closely with
conservators, have done specialised training, and belong to and keep
up with various conservation organizations.  The dry cleaner I use
and recommend is (or was) working on a masters in conservation.

In more direct answer to your questions:  yes, I believe most
textile conservators who work with dry cleaning solvents *are* aware
of the variety of solvents and detergents and their relative
advantages or disadvantages.  In my experience, I have found no
long-term problems with dry cleaning that are not analogous to
long-term problems with wet-cleaning.  It is the decision to clean
in the first place that creates the greater number of problems; the
choice of wet- vs. dry-side systems is often much simpler.

Finally, there is a slim but interesting body of literature on dry
cleaning and conservation that you may not be aware of.  They
include several issues of the Textile Conservation Group Newsletter,
including Volume 9 #4 (1986-87), a roundtable discussion on dry
cleaning, and a more recent issue--I'm sorry I don't have the exact
citation but within the past 5 years.  If your library doesn't get
this publication, you might be able to beg copies from the Textile
Conservation Centre, or write to the Textile Conservation group c/o
Tapestry Conservation, St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Ave.  New
York, NY 10025.  Other issues also discuss the use of dry cleaning
in treatments but alas it is not so closely indexed.  Manfred Wentz,
formerly a professor in the textiles department at the University of
North Carolina, Greensboro but I don't believe he is there still,
made a presentation at the Harpers Ferry Regional Textile Conference
at two different times (probably 1986 and 1988).  The second one was
rather famous among us because he began by rather patronisingly
asking the audience how many had ever been through a dry cleaning
plant and was nonplussed when nearly everyone raised her hand.
(Harpers Ferry was a biennial conference held in Washington that was
attended by nearly all the textile conservation community.  There
were probably 250 people in the audience.)

The last (1995) meeting of the Textile Specialty Group of the AIC
focussed on cleaning treatments.  While the concentration was on
wet-cleaning, there were several discussions about cleaning in
general you might find of value.  The preprints are abstract-only,
but postprints should be available in the near future.

Also, in 1988 or 1989 (sorry again that this is not a firm date)
Martha Tate, a PhD candidate at the University of Madison at
Wisconsin researched and defended a dissertation on the development
of an OTPR (Oily Type Paint Remover; if this is not a term you're
familiar with, it's a dry-side spotting solvent) for historic
textiles.

Sarah Lowengard

                                  ***
                  Conservation DistList Instance 9:60
                   Distributed: Monday, March 4, 1996
                        Message Id: cdl-9-60-002
                                  ***
Received on Thursday, 8 February, 1996

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