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Biography: Charlotte Holzer

Charlotte Holzer

Charlotte Holzer was awarded a Rakow Grant for Glass Research to conduct research for her dissertation on the history and conservation of handmade glass fibers. The project deals with the cleaning of historical fibers in museum objects. For a case study, she will focus on the glass-fiber dress made by the Libbey Glass Company of Toledo, Ohio, and given to Infanta Eulalia of Spain, duchess of Galliera, when she visited the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The dress is now housed in the Deutsches Museum in Munich.

The objectives of this study are “to classify deterioration patterns caused by soiling and to test the effectiveness and harmfulness of various cleaning materials and methods,” Holzer says. “The visual examination of aged glass fibers from European fabrics dating around 1840–1870 and late 19th-century dresses by means of optical microscopy and environmental scanning electron microscopy can help to systematically describe the condition of these unique and rare technological and artistic products.”

This research will be conducted in two stages. The first stage, consisting of what Holzer calls “a systematic classification of deterioration patterns of historical handmade glass fibers,” will involve “literature research on glossaries for deterioration patterns in cultural heritage and a comparative assessment of previously acquired microscopic images on fiber samples taken from museum objects.” The sources of the samples will include French and Italian fabrics of the 1830s, upholstery covers from the Munich Residence (Paris, 1840), colored fibers dating to about 1870, and fibers from glass dresses of the late 19th century. They will be obtained from exhibits in various North American and European museums.

The second stage of the research will entail the development of “a cleaning concept for the glass-fiber dress of Infanta Eulalia, which shows severe mechanical damage and soiling,” Holzer says. “Depending on the stability of the glass, its sensitivity to pressure and solvents, the composition of the dirt particles and their bonding to the glass substrate, cleaning materials and cleaning methods will be selected ... Aqueous and non-aqueous solvents will be used for further testing. The effectiveness and harmfulness of the cleaning will be evaluated by visual examination using optical instrumentation and color-measurements.”

Holzer earned her master’s degree in textile conservation from the Department of Conservation at the University of Applied Arts Vienna.