Textile experts help Warwick historians preserve vintage clothing collection

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:52

WARWICK - Handle with care. Among the many treasures owned and cared for by the Historical Society of the Town of Warwick is an extensive collection of vintage clothing dating from the 1820s to the mid 1900s. But unlike the society's other collections of household items and the like, the delicate fabrics are in constant danger of serious damage by simply being stored, let alone exhibited, cleaned or handled. Fortunately, Dr. Margaret Ordonez and other members of the University of Rhode Island Department of Textiles have taken an interest in the society's collection and have been a source of valuable assistance and information for the volunteers who have been identifying, cataloging, and storing the garments. Recently Ordonez and her associate Katie Schelleng traveled to Warwick and spent several days meeting with members of the Historical Society's Vintage Clothing and Costume Committee to conduct a "Care of Costume and Textile Collections Workshop." The hands-on demonstrations and instruction covered topics that included handling (keep fingernails short), analysis, exhibition, storage, cleaning, repair and stabilization. Ordonez is the director of the University of Rhode Island's textile and costume collection. She also manages the university's Textile Conservation Laboratory and teaches courses in historic textiles and textile conservation. Her official biography states that Ordonez has performed research in archaeological textiles and problems in the conservation of historic textiles and costumes. She is active in a number of professional organizations, including the Costume Society of America. Although Ordonez demonstrated a gentle method of wet-cleaning vintage garments at the workshop, she advised the members that airing and vacuuming might do the same job with less agitation and possible damage. "We learned what we can and what we cannot do," said Betty Hurd, a member of the Vintage Clothing Exhibition Committee. "We are grateful to all the help and advice we have received from Dr. Ordonez and her associates. It will help us preserve our wonderful collection for years to come."