Video – History of the Marseille Petticoat


Transcript of the video “History of the Petticoat”

Video length: 00:04:47

Chris Paulocik, Senior Textile Conservator, Royal Ontario Museum

This piece that we have brought to CCI is a really important rare example of an 18th century technique called Marseilles work. It refers to a type of embroidery which is white on white.

Close up details of the petticoat textile in its original state.

It comes from the South of France the port town of Marseille and this particular example is a petticoat that is from the first half of the 18th century circa 1740 to 1750. It's a rare example because generally the pieces that we have seen that have been made from this type of needlework are much smaller. You might find caps or vests or waistcoats but we've never actually seen a very large skirt like this.

This piece was offered to the Royal Ontario Museum by the collector, and when we were given pictures of it we noticed that there was some significant staining present, and that’s not really unusual with historic textiles because they have sustained a long life.
Details of petticoat showing staining. 

So when we were considering acquiring the piece we contacted CCI, the Canadian conservation Institute which is a world leader in conservation and treatment and conservation science.

Visual of Canadian Conservation Institute team with Chris Paulocik examining and discussing the textile while it is submerged in water in the wash basin

And this discussion led to the eventual collaboration with the Royal Ontario Museum and CCI to attempt a treatment to improve the visual aspects of the object as well as improving the condition of the textile itself.

Visual of Canadian Conservation Institute team and Chris Paulocik during the treatment process of the textile 

I think one of the most important aspects of the whole project is marrying the expertise of CCI and its conservation scientists with the conservators working in the fields in public museums. It's really important to have that lifeline of CCI and especially people like Season Tse who's a conservation scientist with a particular interest in textiles and bleaching. It's a wonderful partnership between the two institutions so that we actually got their guidance and their expertise to follow through and really save the skirt.

Visual pan of the conservation professionals discussing the textile in the conservation lab

I think what's really exciting about the project is not only the opportunity to work with the conservation science department but also to work with the other conservation labs at CCI.

Visual of conservators applying gellan gum on the textile

So we will be working with the paper conservators to work on a gellan gum treatment, which is one of the possibilities we're going to pursue, and also the textile conservation lab is providing the space their expertise and their staff to help to carry out this really important treatment. In the labs, the conservation lab at the Royal Ontario Museum, we have limited space and a limited staff in order to carry out some of these treatments.

Visual of the team working together to lift and remove the folded wet textile from the wash basin

So it's a collaboration of people, tools and equipment that will make this a really successful project.

With this collaboration we're really hoping to preserve the textile, that's one part of this collaboration.

Close up detail of conservation scientist testing the acidity of the textile and of conservators using a sponge to agitate the water in a wash bath.

We know it's very acidic and that we are hoping to neutralize the acidity by wet cleaning and attempting to reduce that to a more neutral pH but we're also hoping to improve the visual qualities of the piece itself to reduce the staining. It is often quite difficult to totally eliminate stains that have been set for many many years or decades so we have to have realistic expectations that we may not eliminate everything but we certainly are hoping to reduce the visual impact of that staining.

Visual pan of visibly cleaner and brighter petticoat textile after treatment.

We're hoping to display the skirt at the Museum for the public.

This video explains the background of the Marseilles textile and the collaboration between the Royal Ontario Museum and CCI for the treatment of the 18th century textile. This video was created by the Canadian Conservation Institute.

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