'Endangered' treasures in Western Pa. museums need public's help

| Friday, Sept. 20, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Two Pittsburgh-area museums have items named among the state's Top 10 Endangered Artifacts list, and you can help them through online voting, sharing and donating.

Old Economy Village's handmade, ceremonial coat and cap that belonged to founder George Rapp, along with the Carnegie Museum of Art's film archive of Pittsburgh's African-American community, made the Top 10 list out of 60 submissions. The six-week campaign, a statewide initiative from the Philadelphia-based Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts, aims to promote nonprofit crowdfunding for items that illustrate important parts of history and need restoration.

Lulu Lippincott, curator of fine arts for the Carnegie, says it will cost some $20,000 to restore the collection of footage from photographer Charles “Teenie” Harris, which currently sits in original boxes in an archive. The museum wants to restore the hard-copy images from the 16-millimeter films made in the '30s and '40s and create digital prints for the website.

“The process to stop deterioration is expensive,” she says. “We're just delighted” to be chosen for the list.

Old Economy's maroon, velvet and silk garment set will cost about $5,000 to restore in a painstaking professional process, says village curator Sarah Buffington, who nominated the clothing for the list.

“I never thought we'd win anything,” she says. The coat “hasn't been on display in quite a while because it's in bad condition. The lining is really shot … and the seams of the coat are falling out. It's in really bad shape.”

The soft cap isn't faring much better — it's lining is shredded, Buffington says.

The hope is to restore the coat and cap for a new textile exhibit set to open on Mother's Day weekend in 2014.

Top 10 items also include historic manuscripts, books, 18th-century butterfly specimens and a congressional wig.

“Our goal with this campaign is to showcase the state's historic treasures and the need to preserve and protect our heritage for future generations,” says Ingrid Bogel, executive director of the conservation center. “We've created this program to give institutions a new platform through which to share their stories and to give people a chance to show their support by voting as many times as they'd like, sharing their favorite artifacts with friends through social media and supporting the conservation of these artifacts with online donations.”

Details: patop10artifacts.org

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at kgormly@tribweb.com or 412-320-7824.

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