Over time, everything degrades. Silk, eventually, begins to shatter. Black silk, due to the high heat and chemicals used to dye it, is particularly susceptible to the process. Proper storage and care when handling can stave it off, but once it begins, there’s no turning back. At the lightest touch, the lace will simply fall apart.
Sorting endless boxes of lace pieces can feel abstract. We can look at a piece and see that it is a collar, or know that it was made by hand in, say, turn of the century England, but it is still a single piece on a card. Pairing extant pieces with primary sources helps me better understand what I’m looking at. It puts the extant pieces into context while bringing the book illustrations to life.
The first thing I learned, before we ever opened a single box, was just how much stuff there is. Elizabeth said a few times while we prepared, “I don’t think people have any idea how much stuff I have,” and she’s right. I thought I had an idea. I’m sure you do too. Whatever it is, double it. At least. Her home is a verifiable museum- it’s impossible to turn a corner without finding some sort of treasure there.