Olio curtain donation gives IVCC classic taste of history


Michael Westerman

This Olio curtain donation, which dates back over a hundred years, was found in an old general store attic in Ladd. It will be restored and put on display at IVCC inside the Cultural Center

In the spring of 2014, Marlene Merkel, a member of the IVCC support staff, was contacted by the Ladd Library about a donation they received of an old, somewhat tattered theatre curtain, otherwise known as an Olio.

An Olio curtain is used as a drop curtain for theatres to change acts or scenes. “Some theatres could have up to four Olio curtains with scenes of wood settings to urban settings to even curtains with windows that would open,” said Brian Holloway, dean of the Humanities, Fine Arts and Social Sciences division.

Due to the Olio’s size and special needs to be restored, Ladd Library could not do much with the curtain, so they asked IVCC if they were interested in it. Holloway and the theatre group shared their excitement to the board on the value of having such an artifact on the walls of IV. “Not only is this piece wonderful to look at, but it serves as a great teaching and learning tool,” said Holloway.

This Olio’s image was described as a “classical garden” by Holloway with a flowing fountain taking up a large portion of the curtain then surrounded by flowers and bushes of many colors.

Surrounding the outside of this garden scene are names and businesses that helped to purchase this curtain, each housed in a personal cartouche with their business name and date.

Holloway explained the pride in a small town to grow large enough to have their own theatre, which wanted to be shared by the people who helped to build it. These cartouches served as both advertisement and pride.

Holloway compared this to Little League baseball diamonds today where businesses put their names across the fence because they want to do as much as they need to.

This Olio curtain dating back more than a hundred years carried a financial decision as well for IVCC. Found in an old general store attic, the Olio is frayed around the edges in more than one spot. Restoration of this piece would not only be needed but must be done correctly as well.

Susan Monroe of IVCC made contact with a New England-based company called Curtains without Borders, whose area of expertise is… you guessed it, restoring damaged curtains. From tears to paint jobs, this company revives these pieces of art and history.

The conservators say that this Olio will take around two days to restore from reinforcing the curtain to correcting the tears, to cleaning, and painting where it is needed. The cost for this restoration is around $7,000 which will be raised in various ways, including the proceeds of Sunday’s showing of Legacy in the cultural center.

Once restored, the plan is to hang it up on either side wall inside the Cultural Center so that it can be seen by those waiting for shows to start or by classes learning about the piece of “theatre history,” as said by Holloway.

The plan is to complete the restoration process by mid-to-late September.