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A common thread for conservators

Dale Thompson, Of the Record staff

Without textile conservation the Park City Museum would not have the flag of a Croatian Miner’s Union from the area as part of their collection.

Textiles have recently been a focus for the Park City Museum. With the help of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities they brought nationally recognized conservator Diana Dicus to town to lead a workshop on textile conservation and to advise them on their own collection.

Dicus has over 20 years of experience as a conservator. She earned her masters degree in textile history and design from the University of Wisconsin Madison. She also completed a two year fellowship at the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa, Canada. She later earned her conservation certificate from the University College at the University of London. Dicus has worked all over the United States, including at the Pacific Regional Conservation Center in Honolulu, Hawaii and the Collections Resource Center of Historic Fort Wayne in Detroit Michigan.

The workshop, hosted on Wednesday was attended by representatives from the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, the Hutchings Museum, the Museum of People’s and Culture, the Park City Historical Society and Museum and more.

Jennifer Hadley, registrar and conservator for the Museum of Church History explained what drew her to the workshop.

"I came because I’m always curious to see what other conservators are doing," she said.

Park City Museum Executive Director Sandra Morrison said these workshops are an excellent time for people in the conservation business to gather and swap tips.

"When you get a group of museum professionals all in one room they’re all willing to share their experiences and opinions," Morrison said.

Myrna Strauchen of the Heber Valley Aero Museum said she came to learn how to preserve some quilts and lace table cloths she inherited but realized the aviation museum also has flags and uniforms that need to be conserved.

"Everyone has textiles, you don’t even think of them," said Curator of Collections and Exhibits at Park City Museum Wendy Ashton.

While Dicus was in town the Park City Museum asked her for guidance on conserving parts of their own collection, particularly the Silver Queen dresses and a back cloth once used at the Egyptian Theatre.

Ashton explained the Silver Queen, Susanna Bransford Emery Holmes Delitch Engalitcheff, became wealthy in the early 1900’s after she and her first husband invested in the Mayflower Mine as it merged into the Silver King Mine. The Silver Queen’s monthly income eventually reached $50,000 a month, allowing her to live a lavish lifestyle.

"She would travel, they say, with 100 dresses," Ashton said.

Of those, the Park City Museum has five that they are working to preserve. They are made of silk and other fragile materials.

"Most of them are a few different layers, crepes and silks," Ashton said.

Dicus said she was impressed with the craftsmanship.

"It was just a wonderful seamstress who made them," she said.

Another item Dicus advised the museum on is a back cloth from the early 1920’s or 1930’s that used to hang in the Egyptian Theatre.

Dicus surmised that it was put up at intermission and before shows. The cloth has businesses from Main Street hand painted on it, and measures 10 feet by 8 feet.

"It was stored in a trunk for at least 20 years, some of the edges have worn off," Ashton said.

The museum is looking in to ways to mount it, and hopes to display it in the future.

"It’s such a community piece," Ashton said.

She noted how the artistry of pieces like the backdrop and the Silver Queen’s dresses convey a sense of history.

"Conservation is important because there are so many ways to tell different stories," Ashton said.


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