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Introducing Caterina Florio: Textile Conservator PDF  | Print |  E-mail
dresses in a cart
Dresses from the Queen’s University Collection of Canadian Dress at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. taking a ride. Photograph by Paul Litherland

 
The Queen’s University Collection of Canadian Dress housed at the Agnes Etherington Arts Centre Queen’s University Kingston, comprises over 2000 fashion items spanning the 1800s to the 1970s primarily from the Kingston region. The emphasis is on woman’s dresses, particularly from 1890 to 1910, but the collection also includes an impressive range of accessories, undergarments and children’s clothing- providing rich examples of such techniques as lacework, passementerie, tatting, embroidery, fabrics such as silk, cotton, georgette, and wool: embellishments of feathers, fur, fringes and netting: as well as dyes both natural and synthetic. The Queen’s University Collection of Canadian dress was developed by Dr, Margaret Angus (1908 - 2009), a prolific writer and a passionate advocate of Kingston’s history and architecture. Angus moved to Kingston in 1937 and immediately took on the role of creating and collecting costumes for Queen’s university theatrical productions, while her husband William Angus ran the department of Drama. As Kingston families increasingly donated clothing heirloom, Margaret Angus became the first curator of the queen’s university collection of Canadian dress in 1963. After her retirement, the collection was placed under the care of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. Through the support of of Dr, Isabel Bader, the Queen’s University Collection of Dress is now housed in a new storage facility and was highlighted in the recent major exhibition and publication: M. Elaine MacKay, Beyond the Silhouette: Fashion and the Women of Historic Kingston (Kingston: Agnes Etherington Art Centre 2007)
embroidery repair
 Day Dress, Maker unknown, Around1810-1815, silk. Gift of Kathleen M. Richardson, 1988 (C91-719.01)  from the Queen’s University Collection of Canadian Dress at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. Photograph by Paul Litherland

 
"The partnership between the Agnes Etherington Art Centre and Dr. Isabel Bader through The Isabel Bader Research Fellowship in Textile Conservation ensures that the study, preservation and promotion of textiles continues to flourish in Canada. Dr. Isabel Bader has played a vital and dynamic role in establishing the Fellowship. Along with the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, we (OAAG Jury) appreciate her dedication and collaborative spirit "
Jury Citation
In September the 2010 Ontario Association Art Galleries gave out its annual wards and among them was the Partner Award/ Prix Du Partenariat which was given to Dr. Isabel Bader for establishing the  The Isabel Bader Research Fellowship in Textile Conservation is a new research opportunity at Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario. This fellowship linking two of its unique resources; the Queen’s University Collection of Canadian Dress, housed in the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, and the masters Of Art Conservation Program, offering Canada’s only graduate degree in conservation theory and treatment.
lace cuff
Wedding Dress, Maker unknown, 1882, silk. Worn by Anna Laura McCrea at her wedding to Dr. Roland Ketchum Kilborn, 1882. Gift of Laura Kilborn, 1968. (c68-591.1a) from the Queen’s University Collection of Canadian Dress at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. Photograph by Paul Litherland

 
Caterina Florio is the first recipient of this fellowship having done graduate studies at the faculty of Literature and Philosophy at the University of Florence she has done contract work. Working in a range of textile collections in the Gallery of Costume in Palazzo Pitti, Florence, at the Royal Ontario Museum,“ Out of the vaults: Marie-Antoinette dress” Toronto, at the Archives of Ontario, Toronto, at the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto and the Textile Museum of Canada, Toronto.
Marie-AntoinetteRoseBertinDressCloseup
detail of embroidered flowers and feathers on the train of  Marie - Antoinette  two piece court dress, (back) attributed to dressmaker Marie-Jeanne “Rose Bertain France 1780’s purchased by C.T. Currelly.  photo provided by ROM
to see a large high resolution extreme close up of the needle workmanship click here
She has submitted the following thoughts on her stay at Queen's University:
What intrigues me the most about conservation is its very complex nature, of combining a practical application with a theoretical speculation. Every action taken, every treatment even the smallest has a consequence. A neutral approach simply doesn't exist... like in life....

Since I started being involved in the conservation field, even as a student, I was interested in the fact that this profession frequently crosses other fields.  and the research opportunity given to me by Queen's University will focus on the relation between us conservators and the public as recipient of the result of a complex decision making process.

Carriage Dress
Carriage Dress, maker unknown, 1885, silk, taffeta, gift od mrs. W.R.P. Bridger, 1962 (C62-552a,b) from the Queen’s University Collection of Canadian Dress at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. Photograph by Paul Litherland

These days our visual culture is very strong and it's present in every aspect of our lives. Fashion and history of costume have in recent times taken a bigger place in the museum field and in our lives in general, for example the entrainment world (movies, TV shows...). So I thought it was interesting and intriguing to further investigate how all these elements come together.
The public has a big role in the life of a museum but it's hard to distinguish the grade and nature of its influence on the museum activity. For example, in a costume exhibition the public looking at stains on an historic garment will reject them as not reflecting the image that comes from the slick modern media or accept them as meaningful evidence of history of the artifact? What level is tolerated?
detail of Carriage dress
 Detail of Carriage Dress, maker unknown, 1885, silk, taffeta, gift of Mrs. W.R.P. Bridger, 1962 (C62-552a,b) from the Queen’s University Collection of Canadian Dress at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. Photograph by Paul Litherland

Through the delivery of different treatments on selected objects of Queen's University Collection of Canadian Dress I'm planning to further investigate this specific aspect of conservation methodology, dedicating particular attention to treatments that have a greater aesthetic involvement. I often mention stains because it's a clear example of a disturbing element present in the reading and appreciation of an object on its entirety and there are many diverse methods to treat them, all of them with different practical and theoretical implications.

In addition I'm planning on preparing a questionnaire to be distributed to the museum public as empirical source to gather more info, difficult to otherwise have access to. So again practical and theoretical together!

Please keep in mind that the research is at its very early stages...

Caterina Florio

 
Research Proposals from experienced Textile Conservators are invited for the Isabel Bader Research Fellowship in Textile Conservation: the value of the fellowship is CDN $ 12,000.00 + CND $ 3000.00 (travel and expense) Interested candidates are strongly encouraged to contact the Agnes Etherington Arts Centre well in advance of the next closing date (which is on or before 1 May 2010) to discuss the relevance of their research interest to the collection. For more information download this PDF and contact Alicia Boutilier, Curator of Canadian Historical Art, at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
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