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    Storing cloth items: general comments

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    Museum storage boxes with acid free papers are expensive items, but worth considering if you are storing historically important and/or valuable items. Plastic boxes are usually not a good idea because they contain oils and other chemicals that can affect the chemical stability of materials stored in them. In a "pinch" situation, they are better than nothing at all.

    Even with museum boxes, you might wish to think about wrapping any cloth items in two or three wrapped laters of new, clean all cotton cloth. The cloth not only provides a barrier between the item and the walls of the storage container, but support for picking the item up when taking it out of, or putting it in the box. Picking the item up with a cloth wrapping around it, can be similar to moving an injured person on a stretcher.

    One item per box only. Don't be tempted to place two or more items in the same container. Items don't need to be weighed down by anything else other than their own weight...if even that.

    Try to keep items as flat as possible, without any folds. Folds and seam lines can eventually result in weak areas in the cloth or fabric, and tears or breaks can (and do) develop. Flat storage takes up space, but there are times when there isn't that much space. If you need to put something in a smaller container than the overall size of the object, either loosely roll it without putting any folds or creases along the sides, or...very loosely "dump" the item into the box and try not to cause any folds or creases. The item will develop light wrinkles if left in the box for a long time, so it should be taken out every few months and checked, and then put back so that no permanent creases or wrinkles have the chance to form.

    Stuffing garments, hats, etc, with paper so the item can keep it's shape is a bad idea, simply because most papers contain a high acid content and over time the acid will begin to affect the item. Clean all cotton cloth or cotton-wool is a better option for padding or stuffing.

    On a related note, putting uniforms or garments on coat hangers or even on torso forms/mannequins for a long time is -not- a good idea. Most coat hangers are not designed to prevent the weight of the garment from pulling down on the shoulders, around the collar, and eventually causing the shape or drape of the garment from starting to stretch and tug at the weave of the cloth. This also happens on mannequins. The sleeves on garments if not padded, will flatten out and that eventually starts to affect the shape of the cloth and the way it hangs. In the long run, the weight of the garment causes other more or less permanent (or difficult to reverse) effects on the structure of the cloth itself.

    Items even in display cases should be protective by special glass that eliminates some parts of the light spectrum from getting in. Although that tunic might be a fine piece of "eye candy" in a display case, from time to time, think about giving it a vacation. Rotating items on display at home is also a nice thing from the pyschological standpoint....you won't get tired of seeing the same exact thing 24x7x365.25 time ten or more years?

    Silk is often used for making flags, medal ribbons, linings of some clothing, and from time to time, other items. The bad news about silk is that silk is an organic material that slowly degrades over time, and there is no way to -permanently- stabilize, let alone reverse, the affects of aging. Silk, is similar to some inorganic materials like plastic that with nothing more than age/time, it will slowly and impercetibly harden, and crack. It is possible to slow down the effects of time by putting items made from silk in controlled environments without oxygen, no sunlight, and cold temperatures which slow down chemical reactions in the silk that cause the aging process.

    With any storage, it's not a good idea to put something away and then forget about it for a year or more. Items should be examined (a quick look without handling is all that's required) to make sure there are no signs of developing problems, and from time to time, like a human being in a hospital pick it up and examine it so "bed sores" don't develop. The idea is to look for -any- change of condition and if it's a potential problem to nip it in the bud.

    Cotton gloves are a "must" if you want to be serious about really protecting what you have, especially if the items readily/easily absord body oils, water, dirt from handling, etc, the way that cloth does, and that can cause rust, tarnish, or corrosion on metal items, etc.

    That's a few points for starters. More to come in bits and pieces....


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    • 2 months later...

    Here is an Idea for Flags:

    What we do at my Museum is something similar to what has already been described.

    We take a piec of about 1 inch thich wood dowel (untreated) and wrap it in several layers of non-acidic paper. Then we tie it off with natual cotton string. Now we carefully wrap the Flag around the dowel and paper ensuring that there are no creases and the cloth is equally placed all the way around. Also we don't wrap them to tight to ensure that air can ciculateThen we cover the flag and dowel in more layers of non-acidic paper and tie it off agin with cotton string.

    Every couple of years we check them to make sure everything is okay and to change the paper or position of the flag.

    I hope this has been useful,


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