I recently came back from a road trip to Texas and on the way i visited a couple of museums, two in particular that i’m thinking of in terms of the topic of carpets is Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley and the McFaddin-Ward House. Both places claim to have the original carpet or rugs that were present when the owners were alive. Personally I have a hard time believing them at Graceland because millions of people have walked in and out of that house, including the time when Elvis was alive and to say that the carpet is the original one that he had, even if they changed it a couple of days before he died is still hard to believe. I walked on that carpet and i could just imagine people with mud and wet shoes walking all over it. How they’re going to keep the original as it is with the current situation? I don’t know, even if they were to put a glass walkway over it, you’ll still have to think about discoloration and off gassing. Again, i’m having a hard time believing that it’s the original so i don’t have much to say about it.
At the McFaddin-Ward house they have all the furnishings in place as it was when the family lived there. And I do believe that the carpets and rugs are the original ones unless they specifically stated that it was changed when the house underwent renovations to become a museum. When it came to the carpet, the museum decided to keep the original carpet where it was placed, but to preserve it, they decided to put another carpet on top of the original for visitors to step on. I think this works to a certain extent because there is still contact with the carpet and that will cause wear and tear or even stretching because the carpet, which i will refer to as the walking carpet, was placed on one end. The strain will be focused on that end unless they switch the ends from time to time. Also, i think putting this walking carpet on top of the original puts it in danger of uneven discoloring because sunlight will discolor the carpet, but if the carpet is just left there the whole time, the spot under the walking carpet will not discolor as much as the rest of the surface area. So here we have two problems, stretching and uneven discoloring. I think that if the museum switches the carpet around so that different ends are exposed to the walking carpet that would reduce the stretching and strain on just one end, and if the walking carpet was removed from the original at the end of each day, this should help reduce the obvious discoloring that will eventually happen. According to the docent, the carpet is really fragile, and the items are over a 100 years old, so i think if they’re really wanting to keep the originals in good shape, i hope they have some sort of long term plan for it. I’m not sure about this, but perhaps put a backing to support the rug if it became too fragile.
So this is just my personal thoughts on original carpets and rugs in museums such as these, the floor is an artifact you can’t help but let people “touch” it because they need to walk on the ground, if it’s a rug, you could always place it away from the walkway, but a carpet, that’s a little more difficult. On this topic though, I love this video from Historic Royal Palaces England where they’re cleaning a tapestry, it’s not a carpet, but the idea is almost the same as a rug. Here’s the video for your viewing pleasure. As a museum nerd I’ve watched this a couple of time in awe of the dedication and care they put into preserving their artifacts.