The Kentucky Historical Society does not have a great twenty-first century technology collections… but one thing we do have is quilts! KHS has over 150 quilts that come from all parts of the state. This is one of our strongest collections… and if you stop by our permanent exhibit gallery, "A Kentucky Journey," you can see three quilts that have been recently added to the society’s collection.
This past week, with the help of the Kentucky Historical Society’s Collections Management Assistants (CMAs – yes, we know… Country Music Awards! Ha-ha!), we have taken the quilts that were on display and put them into storage; and replaced them with three newly acquired quilts. Pretty exciting, huh?! And in about 3-4 months we will do this all over again. Curators "rotate" collection objects (replace objects on exhibit with similar objects that have been in storage).
Curator and CMA, Hayley Chambers, taking quilt off exhibit in “A Kentucky Journey.”
Okay, why you may ask? (And I’m so glad you did because this blog was not going anywhere). Why go through all this work of choosing and preparing quilts for display, taking the current quilts on display off of display, and then putting up others from the KHS collection? Well there are two good reasons. One, KHS has over 150 quilts so there is a lot of history to share with the public… and since we don’t have the space to display all 150+ quilts properly, rotating allows visitors to see the depth of the collection over a period of time.
And, two, rotating objects help preserve those objects that are sensitive to harmful environmental effects, especially light.
Light is the enemy!
Curators and conservators love the dark! In fact if we had our druthers (I, at one time, had druthers, but lost them)… as I was saying… if curators and conservators could design a perfect area for the preservation of objects it would be pitch black – no light. Light energy, especially ultra-violet radiation (think fluorescent lights), is harmful to objects especially textiles (quilts) and various artwork done on paper (hand-colored prints or watercolors). And there is nothing we can do to stop the harmful effect of light… once the light energy hits the object, the process of degradation begins and it accumulates.
Exposure to more light means more damage. This is why some objects are kept in the lowest light levels possible when on display. Some materials (stone and metals) tolerate light more readily.
Now… as I was saying in the second paragraph (if you can remember back that far) this past week I and the CMAs rotated three quilts out of the society’s "A Kentucky Journey" exhibition, and rotated three recently acquired quilts in. So if you love quilts stop by and take a look at some different quilts with wonderful Kentucky stories. If quilts are not your thing… come back in mid-March and you will be able to see some different objects on display in our "Kentucky Military Treasures" exhibition. Or stop by the Old State Capitol in the near future and you will see several different watercolors by Paul Sawyier that have been rotated into the "Great Revivals" exhibition.
CMAs Hayley Chambers and Jennifer Donovan, clean quilt top recently removed from exhibit prior to storage.