26 May 2016

“Moomins at the theatre” exhibition – conservation of the costumes

Moomins at the theatre exhibition opens in Helsinki in June. Theatre Museum’s summer exhibition showcases the Moomin productions on stage including Tove Jansson’s other theatre works.

Conservation of the Moomin costumes

Theatre Museum has gotten various Moomin costumes into their collections from many performances over the years. When planning of the Moomins at the theatre exhibition began, Theatre Museum first went through their own collections and selected the costumes for the exhibition. Swedish Theatre’s Mumintrollet och Kometen from 1949 is the earliest production from where some of the costumes are available. Since they were designed by Tove Jansson herself, it was quite obvious to choose them for the exhibition.

Tove Jansson designed the costumes in the late 1940s, and they were sewed at Swedish Theatre conducted by Agnes Söderström. The play Mumintrollet och Kometen was presented a total of 19 times during the years 1949-1950. When searching the background it was found out that the costumes were stored in a chest at the theatre’s balcony. Swedish Theatre’s employee told that the key had been lost, but the chest had always been named as a Moomin chest so the content was known although the chest was locked. When the lock was shattered, the historical significance of the Moomin costumes was noticed immediately. The costumes were donated to the Theatre Museum in 2009, when Swedish Theatre was renovated.

Nearly seventy years have of course patinated the Moomin costumes so it was necessary to conservate them before the exhibition. In the beginning of April, the costumes were packed and sent to conservation. In principle, all the costumes are made durable and washable but of course, it has to be taken into consideration that the old textiles must be handled carefully. Textiles were either hand washed gently or cleaned with a dry cleaning sponge. Tears in a fabric were repaired and damaged structures were strengthened. Of course the costumes can’t be compared to new ones but it is not even the purpose of the conservation.

Textiles were cleaned either with a vacuum cleaner…

Bag of Moominmamma - Photo Henna Koskinen / Taina Leppilahti, Arvotekstiilipalvelu Tupulatäkki Oy

…with a dry cleaning sponge…

Snufkin hat being conservated 2 - photo Henna Koskinen / Taina Leppilahti, Arvotekstiilipalvelu Tupulatäkki Oy

… or by washing when it was suitable.

Dress of Thingumy - photo Henna Koskinen / Taina Leppilahti, Arvotekstiilipalvelu Tupulatäkki Oy

Tears in a fabric were repaired and strengthened.

Hemulens aunt dress - photo Henna Koskinen / Taina Leppilahti, Arvotekstiilipalvelu Tupulatäkki Oy

The top image shows the Moominmamma’s handbag from the Finnish National Opera’s Moomin opera, 1974. Other images are from the Swedish Theatre’s productions.

Text: Theatre Museum
Photos: Henna Koskinen / Taina Leppilahti, Arvotekstiilipalvelu Tupulatäkki Oy