Focus on collections: Taylor Brother Hats
We have been working with conservator Kate Gill to conserve eleven of our beautiful straw hats from the collection. The hats were made by local company, Taylor Brothers and were exhibited at the ‘Great Paris Exhibition in 1878 and won Bronze medal for excellence of manufacture. The hats are made from high quality, locally made, straw plait and show a range of plait types. The plaits are hand-stitched together into various different hat styles. The company monogram is printed in gold on the crown lining.
These rare hats are a wonderful addition to our collection, showcasing the skill and craftsmanship of the hat industry within Luton. Over time deterioration, especially with straw occurs and it is our job as custodians to ensure the most appropriate action to ensure preservation of the objects for future generations. Working with the conservator, we agreed on a course of treatment, which would make the straw elements, paper interlinings and silk linings of the eleven hats, sufficiently stable for storage and display.
Condition of the hats
Before treatment, the straw plaiting was very brittle, a very common feature in straw. The stitching thread which secured the plaits was very weak and failed on many of the hats causing the hats to deform and unravel. Kate made an initial assessment of each hat before they were packed up and transported to her studio. Kate is now undertaking the conservation treatment.
Six of the hats had some initial work done in 2012 and with our new funding, from Arts Council England, we are now in the position to get the final work done. We’ll keep you posted on the condition of the hats after treatment.
Kate Gill working on the Taylor Brother hats