With over 20 years of professional experience, the textile conservator of the Midwest Art Conservation Center is highly qualified to identify and treat a range of textile-based materials including tapestries, rugs, flags, quilts, coverlets, samplers, curtains, and lace. Works as diverse as archaeological fragments to modern and contemporary art objects, as well as upholstery, ecclesiastical textiles, samplers, quilts, textile basketry, fans, dolls and costumes are all provided expert treatment. In addition to performing in-laboratory conservation treatments, the conservator also conducts object-by-object condition surveys of museum collections.
Textiles are rarely flat and rarely made of one basic material or component. Textiles may be constructed of natural fibers (such as wool, silk, cotton, linen, hemp) and/or man-made fibers (nylon, polyester, acetate, plastic, etc.). Manufacturing techniques also widely vary: woven, knitted, plaited, pieced or felted. The surface may be embellished with thread, glass or metal beads, feathers, buttons, zippers, fringe, rings, and paint. A flag, for example, may be multi-layered and have a surface that is painted, embroidered, fringed, and have grommets. A three-dimensional textile, such as a garment, may have stays, bone buttons, hooks, eyes, and any variety of embellishments. The agents of deterioration that plague textiles are not different from those that affect other artifacts. An unstable environment including extremes in temperature and humidity, light levels, soiling, staining, insect and microbial damage, inherently poor components and improper handling, storage or use can all contribute to the need for treatment.
Proper textile conservation requires a comprehensive knowledge of fiber science, as well as historic and modern construction and structural techniques. Recognizing the causes of structural and cosmetic problems is an important part in determining the proper course of treatment for textiles. It is essential to identify and understand the historical context through careful examination and research into materials, techniques, artist’s intent, and any prior interventions. MACC conservators understand these variables and are committed to providing treatments that are tailored specifically to each individual piece and adhere to the AIC Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.
Meet the Conservator
Beth McLaughlin, Contract Conservator
Ms. McLaughlin joined MACC in 2005. She was a conservator in private practice and prior Chief Textile Conservator at Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina. She has significant training and experience in the conservation of historic and contemporary textiles and the preservation, care and re-housing of three-dimensional objects. Ms. McLaughlin received a Masters in Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Fine Arts summa cum laude from Ohio University and received advanced training at the Smithsonian Institution’s Conservation Analytical Laboratory and also at Colonial Williamsburg. Ms. McLaughlin is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works, Textile Specialty Group, and a member of the Southeast Regional Conservation Association, the American Quilt Study Group, and the Textile Society of America.