Go behind the scenes in this guest post by Senior Conservator, Vivian Lochhead
Hither Green National Union of Railwaymen’s (NUR) banner is receiving treatment in the Textile Conservation Studio ahead of display in People’s History Museum exhibition focused on World War I, A Land Fit For Heroes, which opens 24 May 2014.
The banner dates from 1916-1918 and is a typical example of commercial production by companies such as Tutill and Toye Kenning. It was made by G Kenning & Son, although attributed to George Tutill in John Gorman’s Banner Bright.
Measuring over 2.5 metres in height and 3 metres wide, the Hither Green NUR banner is made from a single layer of green twill woven silk, painted on each side and edged with contrasting red borders.
On a cursory glance the banner appears to be in reasonably good condition, but closer examination reveals several elements of deterioration and physical defects, which make it unsafe for display. Restoration treatments most probably done while the banner was still in active use by the union are now causing problems. The original red silk borders have been replaced with polyester rep fabric, which would have provided a robust ‘frame’ when carrying the banner. Unfortunately natural movement of the silk fabric has been restricted by this polyester border. The weight of the paint dragging on the aged silk fabric has added to the distortion, creating a pouched effect through the main painted silk layer and creasing in the corners. Display of the banner in this condition would lead to gross distortion of the original silk and eventually cause the fabric to tear away from the borders.
In addition, the banner is showing typical signs of deterioration found in painted banners. Splits are occurring through the silk at the junction between painted and unpainted areas of the design. Creases formed during use of the banner have fractured the paint surface and left the paint vulnerable to further loss at the edges of the scars.
During the restoration treatment some areas of damaged paint were re-touched with poorly colour-matched paint. Despite not being visually pleasing, these will probably be retained. They are not causing further damage and as ‘working life’ repairs, they represent part of the history of the banner.
Examination and testing currently underway will indicate the most appropriate conservation treatments to achieve re-alignment of the original silk, secure loose paint and support splits between painted and unpainted sections.