Nelson's Trafalgar uniform has been on display for over 100 years and so, as with any textile on long-term display, it will eventually begin to deteriorate.
The coat has been regularly monitored while on display and although its outside is in quite good condition, the lining is in a very weak and fragile state and therefore vulnerable to loss. The silk has now begun to delaminate from its support, and in some areas fragments of silk are lifting from the lining and are in danger of being lost. In order to prevent any loss of the original silk and to preserve the coat for the future, it is essential that it now receives this new conservation treatment. The lining was treated in 1976 to attempt to stop further damage and support the silk. This involved unpicking the lining and leaving the original stitches behind. It was then soaked in a dry cleaning fluid to remove a layer of wax that had been applied in the past in an unsuccessful attempt to preserve the blood stains. This was followed by washing the linings in a special detergent solution. The lining was then adhered onto a nylon net and backed with silk which had been dyed to blend with the original silk. The linings were then re-stitched back into position. The metal buttons and gold lace were cleaned, degreased and lacquered. The orders and epaulettes were treated in a similar way. Careful notes were kept of the treatment, which will provide the necessary information for treatment this time.The uniform has now come off display and been taken to the conservation studio where work will begin with a very detailed examination, during which the present condition will be noted and a thorough photographic record of it will be made. Testing will then begin to determine the best course of treatment.The coat will be back on display in Summer 2011. In the meantime, we will keep you updated as the work progresses.