The treatment of a 19th century buckskin jacket

Deborah Long


This paper, while primarily intended to describe the treatment of a Native American object for exhibit, will also address one of the issues associated with the interaction between conservators and members of the general public. The deerskin jacket was found to be in fair condition overall. Although primarily complete, the structure of the leather was very weak. The jacket suffered primarily from the misguided attempt by a private individual to maintain the suppleness of the leather through the application of large quantities of neat’s-foot oil. Because one of the decorative components on the jackets contained oil-soluble materials, immersion in a non-polar solvent bath was not a viable option for the reduction of the excess oil. Because the jacket could not be immersed and because the weight of the jacket was so potentially destructive, cleaning tests were per-formed on a large vacuum suction table. The jacket was successfully treated through a variant of the blotter washing technique on the vacuum suction table. Once the oil content in the leather had been reduced, the jacket was stabilized with more traditional repair techniques.

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