IMLS Awards

Our Banner Project!

01_AT_Obverse_NHM_Banner_96.002a-bLast spring, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library received an American Heritage Preservation grant of almost $3,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to support conservation treatment and archival storage housing for three fraternal banners in the collection. The Museum was one of only four institutions in Massachusetts to receive an award.

The IMLS grant is particularly important to the Museum & Library because of the nature of its Masonic and fraternal collections. Many of the objects in the Museum’s collection are not widely collected by other history museums, so the staff often has to devise creative solutions to store the objects and to protect them through conservation. Pursuing best practices for our collection and working to conserve and preserve delicate materials are highly prioritized stated goals in our Collections Plan.

By 1900, over 250 fraternal groups existed in the United States, numbering six million members. Banners were an important component of American fraternal activities. These colorful textiles were used inside lodges and also in public parades and at cornerstone layings and other ceremonies. Photographs and prints from the Museum’s collection show us just how widespread the use of these banners was. An image clipped from a newspaper or magazine around 1868 shows a group of Odd Fellows taking part in a public parade (see below). Their banner is clearly shown in the picture near the center of the group. Many fraternal groups made sure to include their banner when they took formal portraits. For example, a Modern Woodmen of America Axe Drill Team from Kentucky prominently showed off their banner in an early 1900s photograph (see below).96_042_3DS1

The banners that were treated are all double-sided, allowing their respective groups to advertise themselves to audiences in front of and behind them during parades and processions. Two of the banners covered by the grant are from the Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A., the Museum’s parent organization. The third banner was originally used by the fraternal group known as the Journeymen Stonecutters Association. The oldest active union in the United States, the group formally organized in 1853. Members were (and are) working stone cutters and carvers. This particular banner was used by the branch in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. It was locally made by the William H. Horstmann Company in Philadelphia, a company that made regalia and props for many American fraternal groups during the late 1800s and early 1900s.2003_022_2T1

One of the Scottish Rite banners received much-needed conservation treatment (above left). It showed signs of age, as well as damage from long-term exposure to the environment and stress from gravity. The surface was rippled throughout and the painted sections were worn, with some loss. The banner showed structural damage and staining. The treatment, performed by Windsor Conservation of Dover, Massachusetts, provided conservation cleaning and stabilization of the most critical structural damage. The banner has been surface cleaned, with special attention paid to mitigating the stained areas. Detached fringe trimming on the edges and the detached valance at the top were re-attached. The banner’s decorative tassels were also repaired and stabilized.

01_BT_Obverse_NHM_Banner_98.014The second Scottish Rite banner and the Journeymen Stonecutters banner (at left) - both of which show significant areas of split silk that could only be treated at great cost – have been rehoused in specially-fabricated archival boxes. This archival storage treatment provides a preventive measure for the banners, which were previously stored uncovered on large, heavy pieces of plastic. The banners are now tacked to a padded fabric-covered board that can be used safely for occasional display and for handling. The new storage boxes protect the banners from light damage and the added resting boards prevent the need to move the banners from one flat surface to another, cutting down on the risk of further damage.

We are currently working on plans to exhibit at least one of the banners this coming summer, so please check our website for upcoming details!

Scottish Rite Banner, 1890-1930, American. Gift of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A., 2011.017. Photograph by Windsor Conservation.

Journeyman Stone Cutters Association of North America Parade Banner, 1891, William H. Horstmann Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Gift of Jane Hilburt-Davis in memory of Ellen Vinnacombe Francis, 98.014. Photograph by Windsor Conservation.

Semi-Centennial Celebration of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, ca. 1868, Theodore R. Davis, New York. Museum Purchase, 96.042.3.

Modern Woodmen of America Axe Drill Team 1908-1912, Schroeter Studio, Green River, Kentucky. Museum Purchase, 2003.022.2.  Photograph by David Bohl.

IMLS Connecting to Collections Bookshelf

Connecting_to_collections The National Heritage Museum was selected as a recepient of the IMLS Connecting to Collections Bookshelf, a core set of conservation books and online resources donated by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). IMLS has awarded almost 3,000 free sets of the IMLS Bookshelf, in cooperation with the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH).

For the next few weeks we're displaying the books that we received as part of the IMLS Connecting to Collections Bookshelf in the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives reading room (see the picture above). Educating the public about preservation and conservation is an important part of the work we do. Along with the display of the books we've received, we have an informational sign that explains how we got these resources and why they're important.

But wait, there's more! A companion to the IMLS Bookshelf is the excellent Guide to Online Resources, which is another great way to learn more about preservation and conservation. In the reading room, we're showing the Connecting to Collections DVD as well. (Can't make it here? You can also watch the 4-minute video online.)

How did we get these great resources? The National Heritage Museum received this essential set of resources based on an application describing the needs and plans for the care of its collections. The IMLS Bookshelf focuses on collections typically found in art or history museums and in libraries' special collections, with an added selection of texts for zoos, aquaria, public gardens, and nature centers. It addresses such topics as the philosophy and ethics of collecting, collections management and planning, emergency preparedness, and culturally specific conservation issues.

We've cataloged the books so that anyone searching our online catalog or OCLC's WorldCat will know that we have these resources. The staff that works with collections here at the museum is happy to be the beneficiaries of the IMLS's generosity.

Here's a list of the resources we received:

Adelstein, Peter Z. IPI Media Storage Quick Reference. Rochester, NY: Image Permanence Institute, 2004.

American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. The AIC Guide to Digital Photography and Conservation Documentation. Washington, DC:American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. 2008.

Canadian Conservation Institute, Department of Canadian Heritage. Framework for Preservation of Museum Collections. Wall chart. Ottawa: Canadian Conservation Institute, 2004.

Drewes, Jeanne M. and Julie A. Page, eds. Promoting Preservation Awareness in Libraries. West Port, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997.

Ellis, Margaret Holben. The Care of Prints and Drawings. New York: AltaMira Press, 1995.

Gorman, G. E., and Sydney J. Shep, eds. Preservation Management for Libraries, Archives and Museums. London: Facet Publishing, 2006.

Heritage Preservation, The National Institute for Conservation. Capitalize on Collections Care. Washington, DC: Heritage Preservation Inc., 2007.

_____. Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel. Washington, DC: Heritage Preservation Inc., 2005.

_____. Field Guide to Emergeny Response. Washington, DC: Heritage Preservation Inc., 2006.

International Review of African American Art: Collecting, Conservation, and Collaborations, 22.1, 2007.

Long, Jane S. and Richard W. Long. Caring for Your Family Treasures. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers, 2000.

Malaro, Marie C. A Legal Primer on Managing Museum Collections. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institute Press, 1985.

National Park Service. Museum Handbook Part I: Museum Collections. Washington, DC: National Park Service, 2006.

National Trust. The National Trust Manual of Housekeeping: The Care of Collections in Historic Houses Open to the Public. Amsterdam: Elsevier. 2006.

Ogden, Sherelyn, ed. Caring for American Indian Objects: A Practical and Cultural Guide. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2004.

Ritzenthaler, Mary Lynn and Diane L. Vogt O’Connor. Photographs: Archival Care and Management. Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2006.

Ward, Philip. The Nature of Conservation: A Race Against Time. Marina del Rey, CA: The Getty Conservation Institute, 1986.