Silk Conservation (2010)

Condition Assessment:

Problems :

The silk flag to be treated was very old and hence had deteriorated a lot by intrinsic as well as extrinsic factors. It was shattering at the slightest handling. The major deteriorating factors have been:

  • Silk being naturally susceptible to fast ageing, gets embrittled leading to splits and tears, and eventually a powdery and very friable fabric is left.
  • Warp and Weft:  Though at first look with unaided eye there was apparently no difference in warp and weft thickness and silk seems very smooth, but when we viewed the silk under higher magnification, the weight of warp and weft was quite different. Warp was quite heavy as compared to weft. Actually, weft was too fragile to bear any sort of load or pressure of even minutest handling. It could not even withstand the strong adhesive force of the adhesive used during previous restoration attempts.
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  • Embroidery was coming off .

Add-on problems for conservation treatment

  • Generally, when the silk has tears and holes, it is given a lining or backing. But, in this particular case, the silk was already stitched over a thick fabric and hence, to provide that additional closer support it needs to be first taken off from the back fabric. This would not be an ideal suggestion in this case as the already shattering silk was not in a position to bear so much of handling.
  • Many of the previous restoration attempts had just added on to the friable nature and damage to the fabric



(Removing the old frame and its board)

Most of the pins, stapling pins, thumb-pins etc were removed on-site with the help of owners. Only the flag with a few stapling pins still left on it was taken to the conservation lab.

Removing the old repairs (apart from pins)

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Cleaning was carefully performed with de-ionized water and  some mild organic solvents and low pressure vacuum suction.

 Consolidation with the help of Klucel G film on crepline.

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Author: namitajaspal
Namita Jaspal, with inherited skills of art and aesthetics and passion for science, opted to pursue post- graduation in ‘Conservation of Cultural Property’ after her graduation in Science from Delhi University in 1992. Four year intense training at National Museum Institute provided the right foundation to start a career in Conservation. She is currently practicing conservation consultancy for Heritage property including monuments and collections. She has been doing independent research in conservation techniques and procedures in Indian context. She is currently working on the conservation of wall-paintings of Sri Harmandir Sahib Ji (The Golden temple at Amritsar. The project is nearing completion and getting a lot of appreciation for the organized and ethical treatment it is providing. It is for the first time in the history of Sri Harmandir Sahib Ji (The Golden Temple) that wall painting conservation and preservation is being done in a scientific manner, keeping the codes of Ethics into consideration while decision making. Another project just completed is of the Conservation of Krishna Temple at Kishankot, Gurdaspur, Punjab. In her private Conservation Laboratory, she is not only providing onservation services, but also mentoring young aspiring conservators and archaeologists by the way of training and paid internships. She has been a guest lecturer at DIHRM (Delhi Institute of Heritage Research and Management). With all the updated knowledge database and innovative practical approaches relevant to the Indian conditions, she could successfully do curative and preservative treatment of very old textiles like a nine feet long flag from nineteenth century that is regarded as priceless memorabilia of second Dogra regiment at Chandi Mandir, and four hundred years old (seventeenth century) Chola Sahib Ji of Sixth Guru of Sikhs, Sri Hargobind Sahib Ji. Apart from this she has done conservation of Photograph collections, archival records, numerous paintings, manuscripts and other cultural objects. She is also involved in preparation of up-gradation proposals for museums and such organizations. Her expertise includes Conservation and preservation technologies and procedures for conservation of varied material like wall paintings, paper, photographs, textile, ceramics, stone, metal and archaeological objects.

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