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Saturday, June 1 • 11:15am - 11:45am
(Textiles + Wooden Artifacts) Two’s Company: Supportive Relationships

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A pair of documented 1826 Phyfe window benches with original under-upholstery materials belonging to the Brooklyn Museum of Art were treated for the American Wing’s exhibition “Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinet Maker in New York” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, December 20, 2011 to May 6, 2012. The window benches retained their original webbings, baseclothes and squabs. Examination revealed different methods of corner cuts and variations in the attachments of the basecloths to the frames. These benches are of interest both in comparing the differences between them in upholstery techniques and for the treatment using a carbon fiber support system for the squabs.

The opportunity to examine multiple objects in a suite provokes discussions on the relationships between shop practices and the artisans doing the work. While this perspective has a history of scholarship in American furniture manufacture, it has yet to be seriously undertaken for historic upholstery and upholsterers. What are our interpretations when different textile materials are used or variations in techniques between objects are observed within the same campaign? Other pairs of upholstered objects with variations found in under-upholstery techniques and materials during examination will be discussed.

To retain the historically valuable comparative information found in this pair of window benches, our treatment of the benches provided an example of the use of carbon fiber supports to protect original material without intrusive techniques while enabling appropriate replacement showcovers to be installed. Matrixes of wovens embedded in resins have been used in conservation for a number of years. The development and availability of woven carbon fiber in epoxy offers advantages over fiber glass in polyester with its higher strength-to-weight ratios and ease of working properties. The issue in the treatment of the window benches was how to support the squabs on top of the original basecloth and webbing while protecting these fragile materials from the squab weight and allowing visibility and access to the original materials. The use of carbon fiber epoxy matrix sheet for this treatment will be described. Other uses of carbon fiber and epoxy for underupholstery support systems that we used in other treatments will be discussed.


Nancy Britton

Conservator, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Saturday June 1, 2013 11:15am - 11:45am EDT
JW Marriott White River Ballroom C-D 10 S West St Indianapolis, IN 46204

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