Conserving a textile treasure
Donations to our 2019 Annual Appeal helped the Museum to conserve the oldest dress in the Museum’s collection – a magnificent silk brocade gown from the 1700s.
Staff from the National Museum have been studying the dress and its history, and in 2020 were able to travel to the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) to compare the Springfield–Faithfull gown to other gowns of the same period.
This confirmed evidence of alterations to the gown and gave the team a richer understanding of its construction.
The dress was brought from England to Australia and passed down through five generations of the one family. There is evidence that the dress has been modified several times, most likely to stay current with the slow-changing fashion of the period.
Cheryl Crilly, curator:
Beginning in the 1730s the story of this dress – its design and construction, how it was worn, altered, cherished and preserved – has been shaped by a long line of women.
The dress holds stories of London’s weaving and textile industry, colonial migration, pastoralism at Springfield sheep station near Goulburn and Sydney’s social life.
Part of the Springfield–Faithfull Family collection, the dress was donated to the Museum in 2005 by Pamela Maple-Brown and the late Jim Maple-Brown, and the late Diana Boyd, through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program.
Thanks to the generous support of donors, curator Cheryl Crilly and conservator Michelle Newton-Edwards can continue researching and conserving this gown so that it’s full history can be shared with the nation.
We would like to thank and acknowledge our donors to the 2019 Annual Appeal, including those who would like to remain anonymous.