Before & After:
Gone With The Wind curtain dress hat
The conservation department of the Ransom Center is responsible for the care and preservation of the Center's collections. This feature highlights repair and conservation work on collection items.
Austin-based objects conservator Catherine Williams treated the curtain dress hat this past spring in preparation for its display in the exhibition The Making of Gone With The Wind. Milliner John Frederics, who created Scarlett O'Hara's hats in concert with Walter Plunkett's costumes, incorporated some unusual materials in this piece, most notably two bronze-painted chicken feet.
Williams slowly and methodically removed bright green corrosion from the feet, partly caused by fats in the chicken skin interacting with the bronze powder. Several feathers creating a dramatic swoop across the crown had detached over time. Williams reattached these feathers to the hat and carefully reshaped those that had become wilted or distorted.
Utilizing archival photographs from the David O. Selznick collection, Williams also returned the cotton velveteen folds of the crown back to their original shape and curvature. Finally, she created a custom-made storage mount and box to provide the best possible conditions for support when the hat is moved or stored.
Thanks to this conservation work, the hat is now reunited with the iconic curtain dress. The hat and dress are on view through January 4 in the exhibition The Making of Gone With The Wind.