Military Uniform Project
Military uniforms are an important part of Lawrence County’s History. Residents have served and fought in every branch of the service and in every war and conflict. Preserving the uniforms, as a tangible part of the county’s history, is a way to honor these veterans.
In January 2015 the Board authorized the purchase of the Past Perfect Small Museum Inventory Program to replace an earlier acquisition program. The first collection to be inventoried was the military uniforms. Identification had to be made after research was completed, and appropriate storage methods had to be determined.
In the beginning the conservation committee thought there were five or possibly six uniforms in storage, but soon discovered there were almost twenty-five. As word got out about the project in the community, five more were donated to the Museum.
So as the project grew, the cost for supplies escalated and the storage space allotted grew smaller. Because of the number of uniforms, archival box storage was not an option for every individual one. Most of the uniforms would have to be hung, except for a couple of the very fragile ones. Each uniform’s shoulder area was checked to see if it could support its own weight. Two knitted military sweaters were boxed.
All uniforms were removed from non-archival boxes and metal hangers. After pricing the archival covered hangers, Nancy King decided her committee could make them from donated wooden hangers wrapped with cotton batting and covered with muslin covers. So while some of the ladies proceeded with this task, others sat down at the sewing machine and stitched up custom garment bags from donated muslin. Muslin was used because it is non-acidic, stable, and provides a buffer against light, humidity and contaminants.
Meanwhile each uniform was assigned a number in the Past Perfect program and the relevant donor information was entered. The provenance was recorded as were any other details that might prove helpful in the future. A tag with this number was sewn in each piece of the uniform.
Irene Jackman photographed each uniform concentrating on all details such as sewn-on arm patches and the placement of attached medals. Then a label with a photo of the uniform was attached to the garment bag, covering the hanger holding the uniform.
Smaller items such as caps and hats, belts and ties, if made of cotton or linen were wrapped in acid free tissue paper after being labeled with a number and photographed. These were then placed in archival boxes. Photos of items inside the box were placed on the outside of box.
While all of this was occurring, Todd Gray researched the insignia on the uniforms, and dated the items when able to do so. The individual medals were identified, labeled and photographed also.
Once all of the above work was complete, the garment bag- covered uniforms were placed in a specially designated closet on the second floor of the new research library. This allowed more space for the hangers than the previously-used smaller closet at the museum. Shelves will hold the archival boxes without having to stack them on top of each other.