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In August 2015, Iggy and his little sister Frances found an embroidered wall hanging rolled up on one of the shelves. There was no record of how we came to have this item, or if there was any importance to the College. Following the advice of our Art Curator Maria, Iggy and Frances sought advice from an Asian art specialist. They found out that the “the work is a Japanese silk wall embroidery from the Meiji Period (1868-1912). These works were hung both in Japanese spaces as well as popular export items”. Here are Iggy and Frances with the embroidery in 2015.
Iggy and Frances sought the advice of a professional textile conservator to see what could be done to stop the deterioration of the fabrics and the best methods to display this item. In October 2016, the work was sent to the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, which is housed at the Public Record Office of Victoria in North Melbourne.
The textile conservator put the embroidery in the freezer at minus twenty-one degrees Celsius, in order to kill the little clothes moths that had started to eat the silk. It was frozen for several months and then de-frosted and assessed. It was cleaned and several missing couching stitches were re-stitched. These stitches hold the embroidered areas in place on the middle layers of tissue paper and the lining of cotton fabric. Iggy and Frances are taking a sneaky peak at the work which was returned in September 2017.
Unfortunately, the condition of the work was found to be quite fragile and the conservator recommend that the work be kept flat for storage and display. Iggy and Frances now have the biggest box in the collection with the cleaned and secure embroidery lying flat in its custom-made box.
Iggy and Frances have not come across any further information on the wall hanging since first found. They think we will never find out how such a valuable piece ended up in the Archives, although their original theory of via the Jesuit connection with Japan is still preferred. They will now look at recommended methods of display, so that this delicate work can be shared with everyone.
The College Archives are located in the refurbished cellars at the east end of the South Wing. Open M-F 8.30am – 4pm.
Contact the College Archivist on 9854 5360 or via email, Xavier.Archives@xavier.vic.edu.au