I was recently asked to look at the storage of a pair of boots in our European Textile Store.
The boots are made out leather and fabric, and were made sometime in the early 1900s. We’re not sure where they were made, but the catalogue information tells us they were worn by a local woman in Dunedin before WWI, which means the boots are over 100 years old and are, naturally, showing some signs of age.
Due to variations in shape and size, shoes really need custom supports made for them. For these boots, I constructed a couple pillows and placed them inside the boots. This pads them out and supports their shape. I secured the tongues upright with a piece of plain cotton tape to stop them from hanging down, and constructed a cardboard handling tray with foam supports moulded to the shape of the sole to house the boots on while in storage. This tray safely supports the boots and will minimise handling more than if they were loose on the shelf.
The selection of materials for storage and packing is very important in conservation. We need to be sure that any material we are going to use on or around the objects will not have a negative effect. This means that we're really selective about the materials we use, making sure they’re acid-free, inert and safe to have around our objects.
The fabric and wadding I used on these boots is made out of polyester, the foam is made out of polyethylene, the cotton tape is unbleached and untreated, and the card is acid-free. So as far as we know, none of the materials will have a detrimental effect on the object in the long-term.
We are about to undertake a re-packing project focusing on shoes and hats in the collection, which will entail making similar support structures. Stay tuned for updates!