Gone with the Wind Costume Conservation Begins at the Ransom Center

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A follow-up to this summer’s most heart-warming story, when the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas Austin received $30,000 in donations to preserve costumes worn in the classic film Gone with the Wind. The Center has just posted a lengthy report on their blog, explaining that the very, very careful work on the five dresses they have in their possession has finally begun. Thus far in the long process (they aren’t set to be displayed until 2014, the 75th anniversary of the film’s release), they’re to the investigative portion, figuring out how exactly it was constructed and where damage can be corrected on a microscopic level. Here’s to hoping they continue to post such lengthy, interesting discussions about the process (so long as it doesn’t slow down the actual, well, real conservation work). Here’s a bit:

“It seems like there have been various repairs made to the curtain dress at different times,” says Jill Morena, collection assistant for costumes and personal effects at the Ransom Center. “Before conservators can proceed confidently, they need to know what was original stitching and what might have been done later.”

Morena emphasizes that the conservation project is not a restoration project meant to restore the dresses to their original, pristine condition.

“Complete restoration would effectively erase the historical context of the creation and use of the costume. There’s an inevitable decay with any textile-based item, but you try and slow down that decay as much as you can with conservation and preservation work.”