Conservation Work Begins on Dresses From “Gone With The Wind”

July 18, 2011

Conservator Cara Varnell inspects a feather from the burgundy ball gown from "Gone With The Wind." Photo by Pete Smith.

Conservator Cara Varnell inspects a feather from the burgundy ball gown from "Gone With The Wind." Photo by Pete Smith.

EVENT: News media availability about the ongoing conservation efforts of costumes from "Gone With The Wind" (1939).

WHEN: 10-11 a.m. (CST), Wednesday, July 20. This hour will be the only media availability.

WHERE: Within the Harry Ransom Center's conservation department. The Ransom Center is at the corner of 21st and Guadalupe streets.

BACKGROUND: In 2010, individuals from around the world contributed to the effort to raise $30,000 to preserve five original costumes from "Gone With The Wind," which are part of the Ransom Center's David O. Selznick film collection.

Actress Vivien Leigh wore the five costumes, including character Scarlett O'Hara's green curtain dress, green velvet dressing gown, burgundy ball gown, blue velvet peignoir and wedding dress.

The Selznick film collection, which came to the Ransom Center in the 1980s, consists of more than 5,000 boxes of materials, including the costumes. Prior to the collection coming to the Ransom Center, the costumes had been exhibited in the years after the film's production, extensively for promotional purposes during the film's first year, and as a result were in fragile condition. At the Ransom Center, the gowns have been kept in humidity- and temperature-controlled conditions in acid-free tissue paper in archival boxes.

Conservation  analysis and work has begun on the curtain dress, the dressing gown and the burgundy ball gown. Cara Varnell, an independent art conservator who specializes in textiles, historic clothing and performance costumes, is the key conservator. She also leads a team of Ransom Center conservators and professors and graduate students from the Division of Textiles and Apparel in the College of Natural Sciences' School of Human Ecology at The University of Texas at Austin.

The Ransom Center will be sharing updates about the conservation work on its Web site.

For more information, contact: Alicia Dietrich, Harry Huntt Ransom Humanities Research Center, 512 232 3667.