Treasured gift to museum

HAMISH CARDWELL
Last updated 13:51 11/02/2013
Steve Austin
Museum chief executive Steve Austin displays an 18th century waistcoat which has been donated to the museum.

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An "extraordinary" 250-year-old embroidered silk waistcoat has been donated to the Marlborough Museum.

The 18th-century gentleman's waistcoat was similar to what Captain James Cook would have worn on formal occasions, along with boots, breeches and an overcoat.

Marlborough Museum chief executive Steve Austin said the waistcoat was one of several items of clothing donated "out of the blue" on Tuesday by Blenheim man Richard Sweetzer.

It features exquisite detailing of a spring pastoral scene, with a straw hat, rooster, blossoming peonies and green fern-like leaves embroidered onto cream coloured silk with a linen backing.

"It is really quite an extraordinary piece, and to have it survive at all is really a miracle," he said.

The waistcoat, which was made in England, had "shattered" from being exposed to the sunlight, with the linen backing keeping the garment together, he said.

"Sunlight and silk is not a good combination."

Garments of this age were particularly fascinating because they gave such insight into the intimate lives of the original owner, Mr Austin said.

"I am always thinking of the person who owned, treasured and flaunted the garment. It is a very intimate thing. The shape of their body has become part of the garment itself."

He said the museum was very grateful for the generosity of the donors. The waistcoat will join the museum's textile collection.

Springlands resident Richard Sweetzer said the waistcoat had been in his family as long as he could remember, but he is not sure which of his ancestors originally owned it.

"I have lived here for 10 years now and I thought, let's give something to the museum in a place that has become my home."

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- The Marlborough Express

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