By Rae Eastman
These pieces are so rarely shown. There are, in fact, packed away in boxes, rolled, not packed in squares—fifty or so quilted pieces that range in style from conventional tablecloths to uniforms and costumes and flags. Many of these were brought out May 1 and 2 because the noted specialist, Gretchen Guidess, from the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, was invited to examine and evaluate the collection with a view to advising museum personnel on its care. So careful is her eye she often finds the smallest imperfections, invisible to others. Ms. Guidess has found the collection an interesting one and, on balance, in very good shape. The collection is kept in an acid-free box, not in mothballs, a method with which most of us are familiar. The Museum does not use mothballs to conserve wool, nor do they use metal hangers with which so many of us are also familiar. I learned that this is because residue from the hangers cannot be removed from the material.
Out for her inspection were unique pieces from the collection: period costumes; army and sports uniforms from older times; household pieces and dresses from the Civil War Period; two wedding dresses—one from 1860, one from 1890; and a quilt from 1930. All were given to the Museum by Williamstown residents and often represent significant events in the town’s history.
The collection has seldom been shown publicly since the museum does not now own the necessary support pieces with which to display it. The collection is, for the present, indeed a hidden treasure, exhibited only twice year or so. Sarah Currie, the Museum’s Director, hopes there will be more opportunity for exhibition when the museum moves to its new quarters at the South Center School within the coming year.