Hampshire Cultural Trust

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Care and preservation of fans

Fans are fragile objects and can easily be damaged. Due to their weight, and the varied materials used in their construction, care is needed if they are to survive in good condition. The collection of fans at Hampshire Museums Service are kept in the stores of the historic dress and textiles collection where the environment is carefully monitored.

The fans are stored folded in acid-free card boxes, with acid-free card dividers providing individual compartments to prevent one fan from touching another. The only exception to this method of storage are for fans with painted feather leaves, where the process of opening and closing them has caused damage to the paint which easily lifts off when abraded. These fans are stored flat and open with padding beneath to ensure that they are fully supported.

Certain vulnerable fans have been carefully conserved by the textile conservator. 102 of the fans have received conservation treatment, from gentle cleaning, to the repair of sticks, guards and leaves. All methods aim to stabilise the condition of a fan and to provide additional strength. Sympathetic and appropriate conservation materials are used. Fans in poor condition are not "cannibalised" to repair others. None of the fans are used as originally intended but they are made safe for study, display and for future generations to enjoy.

The storage of fans outside a museum environment should follow the same principles of care. They should be stored folded in an acid-free environment, away from the damaging effects of light, and the temperature and humidity should be monitored. Storing fans in a hot room or next to a direct heat source, such as a radiator, will dry out paper, silk and any adhesive used in their construction. Too damp an environment could encourage mould growth, rusting of metal pins and decoration, or cause warping.

If fans are to be displayed in the home, they should be kept out of direct sunlight and away from spotlights. Light is very damaging to textiles and paper as it can cause colours to fade and can generally speed up the deterioration process. Ways to reduce the amount of light and length of time on display should be considered if a fan is to remain in good condition.

Don't try to do it yourself

If a fan requires repair or cleaning, the advice of a trained textile conservator should be sought. "DIY" can cause more damage than intended and careful, non-intrusive repair requires knowledge and training. Free advice on the care of fans can be given by contacting the textile conservator who can also provide details of freelance textile conservators able to carry out repairs.