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The Kilims Are Coming!

In anticipation of The Art of the Anatolian Kilim: Highlights from the McCoy Jones Collection (which opens September 10) the Textiles Conservation team is busy at work preparing each rug for display. It is a meticulous and time-consuming process!

First, the kilims have to be taken out of storage. Normal cardboard contains acid that can cause staining on textiles, which is why kilims are rolled onto blue, acid-free cardboard tubes for storage.To avoid harm from dust, the tubes are shrouded in unbleached cotton fabric.

Kilim fibers are actually made of animal hair, and, as anyone who lives in San Francisco knows, moisture can wreak havoc on hair, even animal hair (yes, rugs can have bad hair days too!). So, textiles are stored in moveable cabinets and kept at a constant temperature and humidity.

Once the shroud is removed from the textile, it is unrolled face down on a clean table so that the the protective cotton padding can be extracted. Each kilim is sewn onto a supportive linen backing, with a 2-inch band of Velcro on the top side. The Velcro side is thicker, so the padding compensates for this by making the thickness uniform throughout–otherwise, you end up with an ice cream cone shaped roll!

And if you thought folding sheets was difficult, try folding up an ancient and fragile rug! Now that the padding has been taken out, this kilim must be re-rolled from both ends to reorient it face up for review. Art technicians Mark Grim and Robert Haycock have their work cut out for them.

It is important to hang these textiles to make sure that they have not become distorted while in storage, so the hoist is lowered from the ceiling and the kilim's top side (with the line of Velcro) is carefully clamped into place. Sometimes the backing and the textile can stretch differently over time, which causes tension between the two fabrics. If this has occurred, these conditions need to be addressed by the conservator before any of the kilims can go on display.

The kilim is then hoisted into the air and the table removed so that the conservator, curator, and exhibition designer can assess whether the kilim is ready to exhibit.

What do you think? They look pretty good to us! We hope you are as excited as we are for this exhibition of important Anatolian kilims from the Museums' permanent collection. See you on September 10.