Museums and the Making of Textile Histories: Where now?

Institut national d'histoire de l'art (INHA Paris)
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Journal Article
Perspective: actualité en histoire de l'art, 2016, 2016-1 (1 July 2016), pp. 43 - 60
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Many different types of museum collect, document, and preserve textiles, interpreting them through temporary and semi-permanent exhibitions, publications and website interventions – sometimes independently, sometimes as part of a broader story of art and design, science and technology, social history and anthropology, local history or world cultures. (e.g. range and approaches in major fashion capitals such as London, Paris, Milan, New York) with a long tradition in textile production as well as consumption, and in manufacturing cities such as Krefeld, Lyon, Manchester). Aims of debate are to draw on different cultural experiences and disciplinary backgrounds of participants: • To generate discussion over the role of museums in ‘making and representing textile histories’. Museums are not only depositories of textile objects, but also ‘write’ or ‘make’ both public and academic history through displays and publications. But how does their work fit relative to university research and dissemination, feed such research, or react to it? How might interactions between museums and universities in different regions and cultures be developed in the future? • To consider where innovative museum work is being undertaken (locally, regionally, nationally, internationally), wherein lies its innovation, and how it might suggest directions for the future (in collecting, interpretation, etc.), by interpretation, I mean any analogue or digital explanation that explains the objects on display. • To suggest that the most dynamic study of objects from the period 1500 to the present is no longer limited to art historians – indeed, that the focus in art history on textiles that belong within a well-established tradition of connoisseurship (in which tapestries and high-end commissions for wall-hangings dominate) is being challenged by the adoption of a more inclusive approach among historians, design historians, and historians of material culture
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