TSG Chapter VII. Exhibition of Textiles - Section A. Institutional Concerns for Exhibition of Textiles

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Contributors: Originally drafted by Hannah Piner.
Copyright: 2018. The Textile Wiki pages are a publication of the Textile Specialty Group of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.
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Institutional Concerns for Exhibition of Textiles

Factors to Consider

Once textiles are conserved they should be carefully displayed and stored. Like any organic, textiles should be allowed to interact with the air and environment. This lets the organic components that make up the textile adapt and adjust to the relative humidity and temperature. This does not mean that the relative humidity and temperature can go unmonitored however. Most textiles need to be kept at a relative humidity of fifty to fifty five percent. The temperature should be kept between sixty to sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit, while some textiles, such as silk, should be kept at a lower relative humidity (about fifty-five percent). This relative humidity and temperature prohibit mold growth on the material (1).

The main concern for displaying textiles is exposure to light. Ideally, textiles should be kept in the dark as natural and artificial light can cause damage to the material, but this would prohibit anyone from seeing the artifact. Textiles should always be kept out of sunlight. The light levels should be kept low, and should be eliminated when the object is not being viewed. Additionally, fluorescent bulbs should be fitted with ultraviolet (UV) filters, as should windows, since UV light is most hazardous to the object. The lights should also be kept far enough away from the textiles to prevent heat from reaching the object. This should be supplemented by rotating the exhibit (2). No textile should be displayed permanently because of their sensitivity to light and heat.

Textiles can also be displayed hanging or flat. In either case, the textile should be mounted to a support before being displayed. This should never be done without consulting an expert first. Many textiles are not strong enough to hang, or the stress of hanging would cause them to rip or distort (3). This makes flat or diagonal display (no more than a thirty five degree angle) the favored option (4). If the decision is made to hang a large textile, the weight should be distributed evenly over the entire length of the object and the object should be stable and strong enough to support the weight. Smaller textiles could also possibly be framed, but this is not preferred (5).

Textiles should only be in contact with archivally sound materials, no matter if they are on display or in storage.

References

1. Bittner, Elizabeth. Basic Textile Care: Structure, Storage, and Display. [1].2004.

2. Minnesota Historical Society. Textiles: Found in such items as quilts, clothing, and bags. [2].

3. The Textile Museum. Guidelines for the Care of Textiles. [3]. 2001.




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