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Surface Cleaning with a soft bristle brush in combination with suction from a museum vac

More love for the Truelove Flag

A long due conservation treatment on the 147 year-old Truelove flag from the Hull Maritime Museum is now complete.

The 15ft (4.57m) Truelove flag, dating back to 1873 and on display at height for more than 40 years on the main wall within the whaling gallery, was lowered by technicians on January to enable conservation work to take place.

Once laid flat over an expanse of tables, a thorough inspection of the textile and photographic documentation of its condition was completed.

Textile conservator, Kate Stockwell from Leeds, who specialises in delicate fabrics, carried out surface cleaning. Dust was lifted from the surface of the textile by gently brushing with a soft bristle brush in combination with suction from a museum vac. The 5m long Velcro strip which had been attached to the top edge of the flag as part of the previous conservation treatment in 1979, was also removed.

It soon became apparent that a previous repair with cotton fabric on the upper left corner had to be removed as it has faded over the years and no longer matched to the original. The removal of the covering revealed that the original textile had suffered significant loss and damage as it would have to carry much of the weight when the flag was originally hung.

The area was reinforced with hand-stitched lines with matching sewing threads that blended with the original blue background. To further consolidate the damaged blue wool, a custom -dyed net covering was applied to the top strip of wool covering the first row of stars.

The flag was then turned on the other side to begin work on cleaning the lining. This was carried out using the same technique, brush and vacuum suction. Additional cleaning was carried out using a smoke sponge on the areas discoloured with engrained particulate soiling.

Stathis Tsolis, Conservation and Engagement Officer with the Hull Maritime project, said: “A closer look showed that the flag was in need of treatment, and thanks to this project and funding from The National Lottery Fund and Hull council, means that this historic artefact has been preserved for many years to come.

The Truelove flag will now be placed into storage and will be re-displayed as part of our exciting plans for the refurbished museum.”

Kate Stockwell, Textile Conservator, said: “40 years on open display, following the original conservation treatment, had taken its toll. It is always interesting and challenging revisiting a previous treatment. The earlier work done in itself forms part of the object’s history. In general the treatment has lasted well and with a clean and a few minor changes the Truelove Flag will soon be back on display, this time in a specially commissioned showcase.”

The final stage of treatment was to prepare the flag for transportation and long-term storage, while the refurbishment of the museum takes place. This was done with the flag face down so that when rolled the front face of the flag was on the outside of an 160mm diameter plastic tube. The flag was interleaved with sheets of acid free tissue with a top layer of Tyvek fabric for extra protection.

The Truelove flag is now ready for transportation. The remaining objects from the museum’s collection are currently being prepared for packing and transportation. This is a fairly complex task and it is expected to take a number of weeks to complete. Then, work to redevelop the museum can get underway. 

The flag will return to the museum and will be prominently displayed in the new gallery and exhibition space.

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