WWII Cloth Map

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    • #132114

      One of our client’s showed us two WWII cloth maps that were his father’s.  His father was a Marine.  These two maps, along with some other memorabilia are in a photo album.  I will be taking these items out of the photo album as I don’t believe the pages and page protectors are acid free.  In any case, I am concerned about these maps being folded up inside these page protectors.  The cloth maps are double sided.  Does anyone have any suggestions on how to preserve or display these maps?



    • #132125
      Elizabeth Jablonski

      You may want to consult a textile conservator.  They could advise you on the type of fabric and its care and handling, especially with any folds, creases or staining.  They will also know how to display a double-sided fabric.  I would advise against trying to flatten any folds or creases until after checking with a textile conservator.

    • #132124

      Good advice. I will try to locate one in the Atlanta, GA area.

    • #132123
      Elizabeth Jablonski

      You can probably find a local textile conservator through AIC’s Finding a Conservator service online:  http://www.conservation-us.org/about-conservation/find-a-conservator#.UwIB2vmzFag

      Good luck!  It sounds like a very interesting and important donation!

    • #132122
      Sherry McDowney

      I have several of those maps in my collection.  Our maps are silk.  We have had quite a few come to us that were folded and deeply creased.  We unfolded them and allowed them to relax naturally in flat storage.

    • #132121
      Ron Kley

      This query raises an interesting dichotomy between conservation best practices and interpretive integrity. I believe that the maps in question were issued primarily, if not exclusively, to pilots and air crews to assist in escape and evasion if they should be forced to bail out or make an emergency landing in hostile territory. They were carried, neatly folded, in flight suit pockets or in the crowns of flight helmets. The ones I’ve seen were folded so neatly and uniformly that I suspect they were originally issued in that folded state. (There must be WWII vets still living who could verify or refute this.)
      To the extent that this is true, the removal of fold creases, even though it may be appropriate from a conservation perspective and may yield a more aesthetically attractive artifact, actually transforms the object into something that it was never intended to be in its original use context.
      At the very least, if unfolding and de-creasing is deemed necessary and appropriate for the sake of preservation, the original folded/creased condition should be photographically documented, and that documentary image should be incorporated into any interpretive display.

    • #132120

      A few months ago I visited the Frazier Historical Arms museum in Louisville http://www.fraziermuseum.org  They had a wonderful exhibit about WWII pilots that included this type of map.  Perhaps network with one of the curators.

    • #132119
      Virginia Whelan

      Good points Ron. I have come across several of these textiles in my conservation practice. As you point out, they were intended for use by pilots and airmen in case of emergency bail-outs and crashes. Some of the textiles are one-sided and sewn into the lining of the pilot’s jacket with, “I am an American. Take me to your Headquarters.” printed in several languages. Others are two-sided handkerchiefs with maps of territories where the airmen were flying their missions. I have seen them both in the folded condition in which they were probably issued to the airmen, as well as used as a scarf around the pilot’s neck. (I guess you can’t lose the map during an emergency bail out if it is tied to your body!) The textiles appear to be printed on a cotton ground and treated with a coating for waterproofing, perhaps a flame retardant? Before any wet-cleaning or treatment is performed, testing of the textiles dyes and finishes should be performed.

    • #132118
      Virginia Whelan

      meant to say silk ground, not cotton ground.

    • #132117

      The map my client has is a silk map from his father, who was a Marine. He was on a mission when he received this map. He actually was shot down and landed on an island. Some of his fellow Marines saw him and threw a note out of their window to tell him they will come back for him. My client has that note as well. Such a wonder piece of personal history.

    • #132116
      Judith Eisenberg

      I have conserved a number of these WWII printed maps on silk, all belonging to the families of the airmen who had them sewn into the linings of their jackets, all printed maps of the areas over which they were flying should they get shot down. Since the families wanted them displayed, they were humidified, and flattened prior to mounting. When necessary torn areas were repaired with sheer fabrics or threads impregnated with archival adhesive. Although the sharp fold creases were in evidence, none of them arrived at my studio folded. The most recent one arrived torn and still glued to its cracked and distorted mat frame.


    • #132115

      Ron- you make a very interesting point and something that I probably wouldn’t have thought about. Your suggestion about photo documentation is a good one, and not just for these types of artifacts. It has been my understanding that before any type of conservation, it is necessary to do a condition report and photographic documentation is part of the process.

      On a slightly unrelated note, I have a leather bomber jacket made in the 80s that has a fake one of these maps as the lining. Apparently quite a few companies made these starting in the 70s, some of them following exact WWII specifications.

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