The Amelia Scott Galleries
Tunbridge Wells Museum and Library
Tunbridge Wells Museum and Library was awarded funding for a radical refurbishment of their building and at the end of April, 2022, new galleries opened.
The Textile Conservancy was commissioned to undertake the conservation and mounting of the costume, that ranged from elaborately embroidered waistcoats and period dresses, to a WW1military uniform.
The majority of costume exhibits are located in The Georgian Spa, a room dedicated to people of eighteenth century Tunbridge Wells. Gilt-framed portraits adorn the marine-blue walls, depicting members of local families, such as the Camdens. The central display units are filled with historic costume and accessories, that brings to life the people captured in the surrounding portraits.
On the reverse, vertical plumb-lines of blue thread were positioned at regular intervals to mark where the scrim should be attached.
For greater accuracy, the scrim was attached with the tapestry positioned on tables. The left side of the tapestry shows conservation stitching through the linen scrim. As the width was in excess of 6m, the scrim was applied in two halves.
The unique aspect of the conservation treatment was to implement a method of display that would afford maximum support to the delicate of the open-weave structure. This inherent weakness needed to be addressed to avoid further deterioration occurring as a consequence of long-term display.
In consultation with the textile conservators at Glasgow Life, it was agreed that the tapestry would benefit being displayed on a sloped board. In adjusting the angle of display, so the tapestry was not hanging vertically, the cumulative strain on the upper half of the tapestry would be significantly reduced.
The tapestry was fixed to the top of the fabric-covered slope boards using contact-fastening tape – Velcro.
In adopting this method of display it was recognized that the amount of conservation stitching to the lower third of the tapestry could be reduced and it would not require lining.
Nevertheless, the conservation repairs took over 1400 hours to complete.
Although this method of display has been previously adopted for other textiles, this was possibly the first time that it has been employed for a tapestry, particularly one of this size.