Museums and the Making of Textile Histories: Past, Present, and Future

Paris: INHA - Institut national d’histoire de l’art/l’Institut des Sciences Humaines et Sociales du CNRS
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Journal Article
Perspective: actualité en histoire de l’art, 2016, 1 pp. 43 - 60
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Many different types of museums collect, document, and preserve textiles, interpreting them through temporary and semi-permanent exhibitions, publications, and web- site interventions – sometimes independently, sometimes as part of a broader histo- ry of art and design, science and technology, social history and anthropology, local history or world cultures (for example, see the range and approaches in major fash- ion capitals such as London, Paris, Milan, New York with a long tradition of textile production as well as consumption, and in manufacturing cities such as Krefeld, Lyon, Manchester). Nonetheless, textile-focused events seldom receive great public attention or crit- ical acclaim, with the possible exceptions of innovative temporary exhibitions such as Jean-Paul Leclercq, “Jouer la Lumière” (Paris, Les Arts Décoratifs, 2001); Thomas P. Campbell, “Tapestry in the Renaissance: Art and Magnificence” (New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002); Amelia Peck et al., “Interwoven Globe. The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500-1800” (New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2013-2014); John Styles, “Threads of Feeling” (London, The Foundling Hospital, 2010-2011; Colonial Williamsburg, 2014).1 The aims of this debate are to draw on the different cultural experiences and disciplinary backgrounds of participants: – To generate discussion over the role of museums in making and representing tex- tile 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 relate 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, region- ally, nationally, internationally), wherein lies its innovation, and how it might suggest directions for the future (in collecting, interpretation, etc.). By interpreta- tion, I mean any analogue or digital explanation that contextualizes the objects on display. – To suggest that the most dynamic study of objects from 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 tap- estries 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. [Lesley Miller] EAN: 978-2-917902-31-8
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