Olive B. Graffam, Curator of Collections, Daughters of the American Revolution, DAR Museum
It is rare and wonderful to work with the same client for nearly 20 years…and over this time a treasured relationship developed; tender, deeply thoughtful, and professional. We got to know each other’s families, and grandchildren by name, and shared our challenges and happiness through a continuous thread of conversations. She took a very special interest in my teaching and traveling in Asia…Olive was someone I always thought about, from long long distances, needle art all over the world reminded me of her.
Olive had an astounding knowledge and passion for the samplers and textiles that she was the Curator for at the DAR Museum for so many years. She knew the collection like a hand of cards; and could tell stories about each sampler, and what characteristics were common to those from say Alexandria Va. or Pottstown PA. Because of her scholarship, DAR members entrusted her with the needle art from their families, and the collection grew under her stewardship. From Olive I learned a lot, about American samplers, in particular. Whenever a question about a sampler arose, Olive was the first person I called. She was so generous with her knowledge.
She entrusted me, as a conservator, to work on over 80 samplers in the DAR collection. Many needed to come off old acidic cardboard or cotton, and be carefully tested and de acidified. Other steps included repairs, stabilizations, and either stitch mounting the sampler to a padded support for framing, or a passive mat for long term storage (often done in collaboration with Bill Butler, at Archival Arts).
When I first met Olive, her husband Earl, would always drive her to work and to my studio to drop off or collect the samplers and textiles. Like a gentleman, he waited in the car, and would never ever accept my offer of a coffee or armchair inside. After Ernie died, we all started going to the DAR to meet with Olive and collect the samplers. She took a taxi to and from work. Olive died at the age of 85, and had only retired last year.
Here are some of Olive’s favorite samplers we conserved over the years.
Articles and more to see and read….
Among others, Olive published this article:
Telling Their Stories: 19th Century Samplers and Silk Needlework
She was also engaged in the Sampler Archive