We preserve a wide variety of objects at the Churchill Archives Centre from paper documents to leather goods – and even a cigar, but how to store a tie?

Being a book and paper conservator, I have never housed this type of material before. As conservators, we pay attention to the materials in which objects will be stored and we want objects to be fully supported and easily accessible. Moreover, other criteria such as the consultation rate, the priority level of the object, the probability of it going on display, and the storage space will help us decide on the most appropriate solution for an object’s storage.

The tie, made of silk, embroidered with golden bulldogs, belonged to a Churchill College drinking society, renowned for its inappropriate behaviour. This item is interesting enough to make it into the collection. Indeed, not only is the object linked to the College’s history but furthermore, this tie is no longer produced as the society has been banned from the College, increasing the value and significance of the object. Whilst significant, the tie is not a rarity and many others have been produced; it does not have any connections to an individual or event; it is also likely that it will be rarely consulted or requested for loan. In conclusion, the priority level is not very high and our aim is to house the object in a simple and efficient way so it can easily find a place in the storage room.

The tie was already folded in two when it came to the conservation room. The first question arose: should we store it flat or rolled? The folds create tensions in specific areas within the material, which could be reduced by rolling the object around a core and then placing it in a bespoke box. However, this type of storage would make handling more complicated as one would have to remove it from the box then unroll it on the table in order to look at the nice embroidery. In addition, the box would not fit in one of our standard storage boxes, which would complicate the storing logistics for our archivists.

We decided to store the tie as it arrived at the Archives Centre: flat and folded in two. The shape of the tie was cut into a piece of thick Plastazote (fig. 1) then glued with a thin layer of EVA to an archival quality board (fig. 2). The measurements of the board and Plastazote were chosen in relation to one of our standard size acid-free folders.

A rectangular piece of grey Plastazote foam board, with a cut out in the shape of a tie folded in half The same piece of Plastazote board, glued to an archival board which acts as a backing

Fig 1: Cut Plastazote. Fig 2: Cut Plastazote glued on an archival board.

Two pieces of acid-free tissue were rolled and placed under the folds to support the textile and reduce tensions on these areas over time (fig. 3). Then the tie had to be fixed to the mount in order to reduce movement within the mount, handling and the risks of theft and mechanical damage. We took advantage of the acid-free tissue rolls shaped like tunnels to hold the tie in place by running a linen thread through them (fig. 4). The linen thread passed through the Plastazote and the mounting board and was knotted at the back of the board (fig. 5 – 7).

A length of acid-free tissue, slightly wider than the tie, which is in the process of being rolled up. The roll of acid-free tissue paper, a linen thread has been threaded through the centre of the roll.

Fig. 3: Rolling a piece of acid-free tissue. Fig. 4: Running a linen thread through the roll.

A close up of cut-out section of the Plastazote foam board, showing a small hole pierced through the Plastazote, ready for threading

Fig. 5: Creating a hole through the Plastazote and the board.

A close up of the tie mounted into the box. The tie is folded around the roll of tissue, which is held in place by the thread through the Plastazote. A close up of the tie mounted into the box. The tie is folded around the roll of tissue, which is held in place by the thread through the Plastazote.

Fig. 6-7: Attachment of the tie with a thread going through the acid-free tissue roll and the mounting.

One part of the tie was not fixed to the mount but will not lift since the whole mounting is first housed in a simple acid-free folder (fig. 8) then a four-flap folder (fig. 9), which will be stored in a standard box.

In conclusion, the mounting is light and easy to handle with the tie held in place. If necessary, the attachment is simple to remove by cutting the thread at the back of the board. In addition, the time and archival quality materials spent on this housing were not extensive, whilst still being suitable for the object and our storage area. Our lovely golden bulldogs are now stored on a shelf, ready for consultation.

A buff-coloured folder, secured with a linen ribbon tied in a bow. There is a label on the front of the folder which reads "Do not touch the tie or remove it from its mount" An open four flap folder The open four-flap folder, now containing the tie in its Plastazote mount.

Fig. 8: Four-flap folder. Fig. 9: Simple paper folder. Fig. 10: Mounting inside the folders.

— Erica D’Alessandro, Conservator

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