Scott Expedition Wilson Flag, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge
The conservation of a small silk flag, embroidered with the coat of arms of Caius College, taken to the South Pole by Edward Wilson as part of the Scott expedition, 1910-12. This was a simple object of significant historical and personal importance to the College.
The flag was generally in a good condition, however, it was suffering within its frame, being suspended by only three threads! The wooden dowel carrying the flag was no longer fixed in place, neither was the display plinth carrying the description. The glass was ill fitting and a narrow brass rail was fixed to the front of the frame carrying a protective curtain. The conservation of the flag was straightforward – it was mounted onto a covered acid-free board to support it and to provide a safe means of display. It was important not to disturb any historical information or to remove the original fold lines in the silk, which show how the flag had been folded to fit in a pocket. It was also important to retain the original frame. Work was carried out to improve the frame in line with current guidelines for conservation framing of museum objects. This involved working with a furniture conservator to create a new rebate in the frame and a new backboard, and working with a paper conservator to preserve the original label. I co-ordinated the project and researched the materials for use in framing, taking advice from a reputable local framer, who I have worked with in the past. I made myself aware of current thinking on conservation framing by reading articles prepared by the Tate Gallery, which I found to be very useful. Advice was also sought from the National Trust on their guidelines for framing textiles. I consulted suppliers of UV protective glass about the most suitable product for the purpose and was able to present the gathered information to the archivist to enable him to make an informed decision on the best approach. The project enabled me to develop my knowledge of conservation framing of textiles and increase my awareness of new materials and methods.