Tarleton explained that her work has included cleaning […]
Tarleton explained that her work has included cleaning fabrics, maintaining them, and preparing them for
exhibitions, or a combination of these that may be singular or involve one or more skill-sets.
It became apparent during her talk that a conservator’s role is a very critical area of expertise necessary to
ensure that our historic pieces survive as long as possible.
“It is really a disparate group of materials that together make up a textile,” said Tarleton.
Throughout man’s evolution, textiles have been used to clothe bodies, carry supplies, or make life more
comfortable as blankets and quilts.
On Sunday, March 18, Kathryn S. Tarleton shared her experiences as a textile conservationist in a presentation
given at the Mattapoisett Free Public Library. Tarleton, along with her business partner Charlotte Hamlin, provide
the delicate service and sometimes forensic work of preserving and conserving historic textiles.
Tarleton pulled back the curtain so to speak on the role of a textile conservator in both private and public
settings. She began with textiles made of organic fibers, such as animal hair and hides. And while early textiles
contained natural fibers, the 20th century brought synthetic fibers into the picture changing polyester fabrics the very chemicals
that make up fibers.
Tarleton has worked for the Smithsonian, Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design, Peabody Essex Museum,
Tufts University and more recently the New Bedford Whaling Museum to name a few
It is an art form that incorporates history, chemistry, crafting, and the ability to know the difference between
good dirt and bad. It is a career path that can take the student from academic studies of ancient people to the
closets of contemporary kings and queens. And for one Rochester resident, it has been a life’s passion of study
and applied techniques of textiles.