This week I attended a fabulous two-day workshop in Wyndham on the Care of Textiles, led by the incomparable Valerie Carson (pictured right).
But my great time in Wyndham actually started in Riverton at Te Hikoi when Valerie gave an impromptu talk, filling in for a speaker who couldn't make it last Sunday. She had no props, no visuals, but made up for it with a genuine 'wow factor'.
Valerie is New Zealand's very first textile conservator. She was trained in London and spent 27 years working at Te Papa caring for our nation's most treasured garments and textiles. She literally wrote the book on textile conservation in New Zealand and has provided internship with some of our best textile conservators including Rangi Te Kanawa.
On Sunday at Te Hikoi, Valerie talked about her Riverton roots which go back to Captain Howell in the 1830s. She also spoke of the tours she's led to China and the Silk Road and India visiting the places where people still make garments (and even ships) by hand. Then she shared about working with some very key pieces of New Zealand and Pacifica history including the cloak made for Captain Cook by the Hawaiians. Her talk was so fascinating that I signed up for her two-day workshop in Wyndham. I actually hadn't planned on going because two days in the life of a volunteer is a long time.
The Wyndham Museum is a massive collection of local history. The sheer scale of it is mindboggling. Thankfully, the space is so large that they are able to easily accommodate the 20 people who attended this workshop. Attendees included a healthy contingent from Te Hikoi as well as staff from Gore Museum and the Southland Museum.
For two days we were immersed in the finer points of how to identify, clean, display, transport and store the textiles in our own museums. We learned how to make padded hangers for dresses and how to gently wash and improve the symmetry of fabric or lace that may have become 'crooked' with time. Valerie showed slides and had many real life examples of what to do and not to do with textiles from her extensive career. Most of all, we learned to know our limits and to ask a conservator for advice when we were out of our depth.
Thanks to Jo Massey, our Roving Museum Officer, and Te Paerangi National Services for bringing a person of such magnitude to our fair southern land. And thanks to the people of Wyndham Museum who were such fabulous hosts making us feel welcome and providing such wonderful food.
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