Volunteers (L-R) Lisa Powell, Bradley Cross, Cynthia Little, and Sherri Smith talk with collection managers Jim Moss and Lauren Fuka about cleaning a rug from the Chinese Government Collection. Photo by Carla Sinopoli.

In February, the last of the Museum’s artifacts arrived in their new home at the Research Museums Center. This spring, with the move completed, collection managers Lauren Fuka and Jim Moss have switched their focus to a new project: rehousing about 400 of the Museum’s extensive collection of textiles. In this case, “rehousing” means rolling them up.

“Many of our textiles are too large to be stored flat, and folding creates creases and can weaken or destroy fibers in the textiles over time. So rolling can be the best solution,” Fuka wrote.

The textiles come from all over the world. Over the past few weeks, the textile team has rehoused items from Swaziland, China, and the Philippines, and other countries, according to Moss. Some of the textiles are more than 100 years old; others are more recent. 

There are several steps to the process of rolling textiles, Fuka explains. The first step is to clean them, as many contain decades of accumulated dirt and debris. After vacuuming each piece, the team fills out a condition report and takes a photograph.

Fuka and Moss have the help of several local volunteers, which increases the pace of the process and also makes it easier to lift, roll, and wrap the larger textiles.  

Once each textile is photographed, the team rolls it onto an archival tube and wraps it in Tyvek, and then attaches a tag containing catalog numbers and a photograph of the textile. The wrapped and tagged textiles are stored on metal racks at RMC built specifically for this purpose.

Preparing the textiles for storage in this meticulous way ensures that they will survive a long time in good condition. But there are no shortcuts, especially with hundreds of textiles. 

“We started a few weeks ago,” Fuka wrote, “and we anticipate this process will take many months to complete.”

In a previous life, the Chinese Government Collection rug covered the floor of an office in the Ruthven Museums building.

Left to right, collection manager Lauren Fuka, registrar associate Taylour Boboltz, volunteers Cynthia Little and Georgia Gleason, and curator Carla Sinopoli hoist the rolled and wrapped China rug. Photo by Victor Estrella.

The wrapped and tagged textiles are stored on archival tubes on these specially designed metal racks at the Research Museums Center. Photo by Jim Moss.