Lights Out, Curtains Closed: Preservation Preparations in the Radio Room

I have an environmental arch-nemesis (as an archivist). And I bet you can guess what it is.

(Hint: It’s a constant threat to all archival collections in some form or another.)

Regular readers, I’m sorry to reiterate this maxim once again. But for any newcomers here – welcome! – the only kind of environmental damage that cannot be reversed is light damage. This is a particular problem for irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind items that can’t be digitized or copied, like the Charles Vincent shooting jacket.

Clearly, there is a lot of beautiful pigment in this jacket, and there’s only one jacket like this in the world. Needless to say, then, that protecting it from the sun has been my top priority.

We’ve housed the Charles Vincent shooting jacket in an acid-free box for the time being. This will protect it from the odious light and any other environmental issues that could potentially arise. But artifacts are for sharing, not just for storing. Thus, our main goal has been to create a safer environment for this item during its time on display. That’s going to be most of the year, so you have plenty of time to visit it!

Fortunately, we’ve been able to create said safer environment. And the solution was fairly simple: CURTAINS.

With the help of a few simple housewares, we’ve been able to block out unwanted light from the radio room. That way, the jacket can be viewed, enjoyed, and protected from light that threatens to fade its incredible patchwork. Here’s exactly how we did it.

Step 1: Gather the materials.

Prepping for this project was fairly simple. We needed two tension rods, two sets of dark-colored light-blocking curtains, and – of all things – two full-sized unfitted bed sheets. I chose curtain colors that fit the masculine, minimalist design of the radio room: shades of brown and brushed copper felt like good choices.

Step 2: Do some sewing.

In order to keep the windows from looking gloamy from the outside, my colleagues suggested that I purchase curtains that came with light-colored interior panels that faced outward. But for some reason, it was impossible to find curtains that had such panels and were also the width and length I wanted. Therefore, I decided to improvise.

This is where the bedsheets came in: I cut and hemmed them to fit each curtain panel, then sewed them in myself. I’m not a seamstress by any means, but I am a “strong” sewer. Meaning that once I stitch something together, it’s staying put. Hopefully, my grandma would be proud of my efforts – although I can never hope to sew the way she could.

Stitching across the entire top of the sheet, and approx. 1.5 inches along each upper edge.
Enough to keep the sheet affixed to the curtain, but not enough to bunch the curtain itself.

Step 3: Position the tension rods.

Because the Lodge House is notably an historic building, there are limitations to the kinds of physical improvements we’re able to make – anything that involves bolting or screwing metal into the walls is an automatic no. With that being the case, tension rods were the best choice for the radio room windows. Plus, they were fairly economical and easy to use, and they can always be removed in the need arises.

Admittedly it took a little while to gauge the proper length of the tension rods. The manufacturer recommended extending them two inches past the length of the window, then releasing them so that the proper amount of tension will keep them in place. After a bit of finagling, the proper length had been achieved.

(We tested the rods without the curtains, by the way, which made the whole process easier.)

See the tension rod at the top of the window? A perfect fit!

Step 4: Install the curtains.

We placed the curtains on the tension rods, and lifted the rods back into place. And voila!

Interior-lined, UV-light-blocking curtains that will keep out excess light and heat. They do look “too long” for the window frame, but that was intentional – I didn’t want any light to seep in from the bottom of the curtain.

Finally, this long-standing project is complete.

Now that the curtains have been installed and the light has been defeated (as much as possible, anyway), the jacket is ready for display. Be sure to stop by the Lodge House to see the updates to the Radio Room and view the Charles Vincent shooting jacket in person!

It might be dark when you arrive – thank goodness! So feel free to gently draw back the curtains and let the sunshine in to see the jacket better, as long as you promise to draw them again before you leave.

Do you have original Packard documents, photographs, publications, or memorabilia that might be of value to the Packard Proving Grounds Library and Archives? Contact the site for information about our collection focus and donation policies.