Skip to content
Skip to main content

Feather Fans

Friday, October 10, 2008

Three feather and wicker fans were salvaged from the African American Museum, all three were moldy and covered with a thick layer of muck. We knew they would take a very long time to clean so as part of the museum’s triage we were told to save two of the three. I began working on the first fan at the Campbell Center in Mt. Carroll, IL under the instruction of Conservator Helen Alten.

Cleaning feathers is a tricky business, each feather needs to be brushed out individually without disturbing those surrounding it. These fans were constructed with a wicker handle and
fan, with feathers woven in around the perimeter.

There were multiple layers of feathers and those on top were downy so we had to fluff them up again. I went around and separated out each feather with a piece of blotter paper to support it and brushed it out with water, trying to keep the original shape. They were then left to air dry. They turned out surprisingly well considering their original condition. Combined, the two fans took about 15 hours to complete.