The Great Parasol Challenge

This blog post come from Jennifer Reid, Curator at the St Andrews Preservation Trust Museum, and focuses on storage and packing techniques for tricky items in their costume collection:

Over the last year, I have been working with two volunteers, Anne and Linda, to entirely repack our costume and textile collection.  This presented a huge challenge, previously there was no order to how the objects were packed – some boxes contained a quilt, a wedding dress, a Victorian mourning gown, a pair of trainers and a top hat!

One huge puzzle to us was what exactly to do with the parasols and umbrellas.  Previously they have been stored in an umbrella stand which had caused a few of them to deteriorate   Space was a major consideration, so I was keen to use existing boxes on convert them into a suitable storage solution.

Parasols and umbrellas before repacking
An early plan for parasol storage

After consultation with the Scottish Conservation Studio at Hopetoun House, I came up with a plan which involved using plastazote to build supports inside acid free boxes. Another good resource for practical tips on packing parasols can be found here

So, on Tuesday the 9th October we set about putting this plan into action.  Thanks to all our careful preparation, the morning went exactly to plan, and the project has been a great success! First we built up two layers of plastazote.  We laid out the objects where we wanted them and drew outlines of them on the plastazote, and cut out the shape.  The umbrellas and parasols were then photographed and  wrapped loosely enough that they were not being forced closed, but tight enough to ensure that there was no strain being put on their spokes.  The wrappings also ensured that they don’t touch each other.  The ends were not sealed to ensure airflow into the interior.   Another two layers of plastazote were put on top, then a third on which we repeated the process of drawing round the umbrellas and parasols.  You will notice that the boxes are not completely full to allow for the storage of some new parasols in the future. We do have some smaller and larger parasols, and some broken ones that will be packed into another box in a less standard arrangement.

All the parasols and umbrellas were photographed and await the addition of labels which will include their descriptions and photos, after which they should be safely stored for a long-time to come!

layer 2 pre-wrapping
layer 1 pre-wrapping
All wrapped up!

This post was originally published on the St Andrews Preservation Trust blog. If any other museums have interesting behind-the-scenes projects going on, we would love to share them. Get in contact or leave us a comment.

Quick project update via a tweet from St Andrews Preservation Trust Museum:


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