Textile Care

Photo of a conservator working in the lab
Since its inception in 1925, The Textile Museum has been a leader in the field of textile conservation. The museum's founder, George Hewitt Myers, placed a high priority on preserving the collection. From the beginning, he made the Conservation Department an integral part of the institution.
Today, museum staff offer counsel for professionals around the world seeking the latest best-practices in textile care and display. The role of the Conservation Department has evolved to encompass not only the treatment of individual textiles, but also provisions for the long-term care of the collection as a whole, with major emphasis on the development of improved exhibition methods. The department is located in the Avenir Foundation Conservation and Collections Resource CenterThis set of guidelines for your personal collection was prepared by Textile Museum staff.
Collecting and daily use of textiles in our homes is an age-old tradition. We are wrapped in them when we are born; they provide us warmth for sleep; they are carefully crafted into garments worn for important rites of passage, such as christenings, bar mitzvahs, and weddings; they adorn our walls and they cushion our feet. This wide range of textiles is passed down through families and institutions, and with it the responsibility of caring for them.
The textiles that you collect and preserve will generally fall into two categories: those that you display and those you use in a limited way, but still try to preserve for the future. The latter category includes such items as wedding gowns, quilts, and household linens. In using these textiles there must be the tacit understanding that while you are doing your best to pass these items onto the next generation, they will eventually become too fragile to use, or may be damaged beyond repair. A tear can be mended, a stain possibly removed, but damage cannot be reversed even by the hands of a conservator.
Textiles that are displayed in both homes and public buildings are subject to deterioration by many environmental factors such as light, temperature and relative humidity, dust and dirt, insects, and improper storage or display. Thus the critical factors in maintaining your textile collection are control of environmental conditions, proper display techniques, and proper storage. Understandably, the standards museums strive for are not feasible in the home, but modifications can be made in order to provide the best conditions possible. These guidelines serve as an introduction and checklist for the care of textiles in the home.