A pillow made out of a local WWI veteran’s uniform has been chosen as one of Virginia’s top ten endangered artifacts for 2018. During renovations to the ca. 1800 Rector House in Atoka the staff of the Mosby Heritage Area Association discovered a pillow that had been stored in the home’s attic. It was quickly discovered that the pillow case was fashioned from uniform and hat fragments dating to the First World War. The initials “M.B.R.” embroidered on the back pointed to Maurice Bryant Rector, who lived in the home for most of his life and operated the nearby Atoka store. Research soon revealed that Maurice was drafted in the fall of 1918, and was sent to Washington, D.C. to train as an electrician. The war in Europe ended before Maurice’s training was finished, so he never served overseas. Sometime after his return to Fauquier County the pillow was constructed as a souvenir of his brief military service. For decades the pillow remained in the attic of the Rector House, suffering light and moth damage. Now, the Mosby Heritage Area Association would like to make it the centerpiece of a display on the history of the home and its occupants. To do this a textile conservator must stabilize the fragile fabric and create a display case that protects the pillow from further damage.
The MHAA staff consulted a number of WWI historians and military collectors, none of whom had ever seen an item like the Rector pillow. Virginia Army National Guard Historian Alexander Barnes agreed, calling the pillow “a most unique memento.” This rare status helped the pillow secure a spot in the Virginia Association of Museums “Top Ten Endangered Artifacts” list for 2018. Each year since 2011 ten artifacts are chosen from around the Commonwealth for their cultural and historic significance. An online poll is conducted and the artifacts with the greatest number of votes win grants to help with their preservation. This year’s poll will run from January 22nd—31st. To vote or to learn more about the Top Ten program please visit https://www.vamuseums.org/virginias-top-10-endangered-artifacts