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Friday, May 30 • 9:00am - 9:30am
(Textiles Session) Relying on the Kindness of Strangers: Gathering Information for the Treatment of a Suit of Japanese Samurai Armor

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Until 1854, Japan had been completely closed to trade with most western nations for over two centuries. When the Edo Period came to an end in 1868, the new regime opened the country up to trade with the West, leading to its subsequent modernization. Beguiled by its exotic yet traditional culture, George W. Vanderbilt travelled there in September 1892 when he received a special invitation to attend birthday celebrations for the Emperor. During his ten week visit, Mr. Vanderbilt bought many souvenirs, filling thirty-two crates with objects ranging from fine Satsuma porcelains to one thousand festive paper lanterns. Amongst his prizes was a suit of Samurai armor, an object which quickly became a popular item for American collectors and whose popularity has come full circle again. The armor had been displayed at various times over the years in Biltmore house, being relegated most recently to storage. The Samurai armor was included in an exhibition, opening in spring of 2012, which highlights the many objects which Vanderbilt and his family acquired during their years of travel.

As a conservator who specializes in upholstery, this author typically relies on each piece of furniture to provide most of the relevant information concerning its treatment needs. The lack of familiarity with Samurai armor, and the culture from which it came, required going outside of the normal sources of information to identify the materials, the various components of the armor, and their relationship to each other. This paper will briefly discuss how information was gathered and the basic treatment steps which enabled this object to be brought to display condition.

avatar for Anne Battram

Anne Battram

Upholstery Conservator, Biltmore Estate
Having had her own upholstery business in Canada for five years and, never intending to ever do upholstery again, Anne closed her shop to attend the University of Windsor in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. There she obtained an Honor’s Art History Degree and then trained as an object’s... Read More →

Friday May 30, 2014 9:00am - 9:30am PDT
Seacliff A-B