Athol Historical Society enacts ‘Project Cover Up’ to protect artifacts

  • The Historical Society is beginning “Project Cover Up” to help preserve delicate items of clothing. If any resident has fabric or sheets that may be ready for replacement, consider the donation of clean used sheets to the society throughout February. Pictured is Debra Ellis leading third-graders from the Athol Community Elementary School as they learned about clothing that is on display from almost 100 years ago. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • The Athol Historical Society building Friday morning, in Athol Photo by Jared Robinson—

Staff Writer
Monday, February 19, 2018

ATHOL — The Athol Historical Society is in the midst of a huge cover up. No, it’s not collusion with the Russians, nor is it a secret email server; it is just hoping to protect some of its more delicate artifacts — namely clothing — from the sun.

Historical society member Shelly Small said the critically delicate items are the many bits of clothing that are displayed on racks and mannequins. These include costumes, women’s clothing and military uniforms of old. Of particular concern are light fabrics, which reflect the majority of the light.

There is no plan to close the historical society, and interested parties can still view the exhibit the three seasons of the year that it is open, but sheets are needed to cover up the displays to protect the delicate organic materials while the historical society begins their push to have new shades installed.

In trying to find a way to protect the displays, the society was brainstorming inexpensive and low-tech options, Small said. One such option that was first considered was the use of plastic tarps, but due to their nature of being non-porous, it was determined that condensation could collect on the tarps and would not evaporate as temperatures in the room changed. So it was decided that protecting the fabric with more fabric was the solution; by making old and less valuable textiles bear the brunt of the sun instead of the more valuable materials underneath.

Debra Ellis said the historical society is not yet sure how many of the light blocking shades they will need to purchase, but the goal is to have all 34 windows covered. The plan will be to focus on the second floor windows first, as that is where the majority of the artifacts are kept on display. Secondarily, the society also wants to cover the first floor windows as there are often events held in the hall in the early evenings of summer months and the late day sun shining through the windows can be overwhelming too.

If any resident has old fabric or sheets that needs to be replaced, consider donating them to the historical society during the month of February. Donations can be made by contacting Small at 978-413-1895, Ellis at 978-249-5835 or Bonnie Benjamin at 978-249-8296 for information and a drop-off spot. 

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