As we get closer to the installation date, our current priority is to ensure that all the hanging textiles – the seven valances and cloth of state – will be safely and securely attached for display.
Traditionally, the textiles were fastened to the canopy’s wooden frame with small tacks similar to those still used in upholstery today. In the short term (about 50 years in conservation terms) this method works well. However, by the time we get our hands on a 300 year-old textile complications occur. The metal threads add a significant weight and over time put a strain on these pin-point tacks. Coupled with the metal tacks themselves tarnishing and transferring damaging corrosion products to the textile results in holes developing in the fragile red damask. These holes in the woven structure cause weakness and tension which can spread and worsen over time if left alone. For these reasons, we look for other ways to hang our large textiles.
We do this by using a material that you may not automatically associate with historic textiles … Velcro® was invented in the 1940s by Swiss engineer George de Mestral. Its clever hook and loop structure provides a secure, even and long lasting method of attachment. Long used in the conservation profession, it is especially suitable for hanging larger textiles. Have you ever wondered what is holding up the large Abraham tapestries in the Great Hall? Yes, that’s right, Velcro®!
A single, 50mm wide Velcro® strip is surprisingly strong, evenly distributes weight and has the added benefit of enabling the swift removal of precious objects in the (hopefully unlikely) event of an emergency requiring salvage.
A simple, low-cost and effective choice, we will be using Velcro® to secure the valances and cloth of state to our Queen Anne throne canopy.
By Alice Young, Textile Conservator
Acquired with the assistance of the Art Fund. Conserved with assistance from Lord Barnby’s Foundation, Idlewild trust, The Radcliffe Trust and the Worshipful Company of Tin Plate Workers alias Wire Workers. We are grateful for their support.