THE RECOVERY AND DRYING OF TEXTILES FROM A DEEP OCEAN HISTORIC SHIPWRECK
KATHRYN A. JAKES, & JOHN C. MITCHELL
The emergency situation presented by a trunk full of waterlogged garments threatened by deterioration led to the prescription of a plan that entailed unrolling and arranging the textiles underwater while in the plasticized state and then freezing them rapidly. An examination of different methods of drying linen trunk lining textiles suggested that slow drying of frozen textiles appeared to be a less disruptive method of drying and preservation than vacuum freeze drying. Vacuum freeze drying was more disruptive in its effects than air drying, ethanol dehydration, critical-point drying, or slow drying in the frozen state. Although ethanol dehydration and critical-point drying gave satisfactory visual results, these methods are less desirable because chemical change in the material is possible due to the solvents involved. In addition, the use of critical-point drying is limited by commercially available chamber sizes. Drying waterlogged material by critical-point methods, did show, however, that fiber structure yielded by this method was comparable to that obtained by slow drying.
This paper suggests that a freezer facility may be accessible to the conservator through a local university or food service facility at minimal cost. Those involved with disaster planning may consider the implications of these results with respect to treatment of quantities of waterlogged textiles, particularly those that may contain many contaminants but cannot receive immediate conservation treatment.
The work reported was limited to visual evaluation of the suitability of different drying methods. Perhaps some other factors are involved in the appearance of fibers examined. There may have been some differential flat abrasion of the trunk lining not related to the drying method that resulted in a different appearance from one location to another. Additional work with waterlogged marine textiles will assess this possibility. Future papers will also deal with the identification and charcterization of fibers from textiles recovered from the marine environment and with the experiments in conservation treatment conducted for the stabilization of marine textiles.
The support of the Columbus-America Discovery Group in the conduct of this research is gratefully acknowledged. Salaries and research support were provided in part by state and federal funds appropriated to the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Ohio State University (manuscript no. 98-91).