Textile museums worldwide are visited by students, professors, researchers, and tourists from almost all parts of the world. They provide insights into the clothing and fashion trends of a region during a particular time frame. Fashion museums in Europe and the USA are especially well-known. Examples include the Fashion Museum in Bath, UK; the Antwerp Fashion Museum in Belgium; the Fashion and Textile Museum in Paris, France; the Costume Institute at the MET in the USA; the Victoria and Albert Museum in the UK; Fashion with History in Barcelona, Spain; and the MuDe - Design and Fashion Museum in Portugal. These institutions are widely recognized in the fashion and textile industry.
Textile museums don't just provide information about clothing and fashion items used in ancient times; they also portray the lifestyle of people from earlier eras. For example, the Calico Museum in India displays textiles and clothing produced in various parts of India around 300 years ago. It offers insights into the lifestyle of the Indian population during that period through these textiles. Transportation was often by bullocks and carriages, which were decorated with handcrafted textiles. Textiles were also used for decorating houses. During those times, there were no machines, and the only printing mechanism was the use of wooden blocks for fabric printing and hand-spun threads.
These museums have been successful in reviving ancient arts and crafts to some extent. They serve as a source of inspiration for fashion designers who are always searching for ancient art forms that can create magic in the modern world. For example, American weavers are planning to revive an old Laotian art form called "Laotian art," which primarily depicted animals, birds, and reptiles. This art form had become extinct after the civil war in Laos but recently caught the attention of American weavers. Museums provide a space for the revival of ancient art forms and transform them into fashion statements of a particular period by preserving their remnants.
Preserving artifacts for years together is not an easy job! Textile museum owners employ various preservation techniques to keep their artifacts intact for years together. Majority of the times, preservation techniques are dependent on the climatic conditions of the place. Museum's management makes sure that the ancient textiles are protected from dust and dirt, so they are likely to coat the textile sheet or clothing with plastic. They ensure that the room where the fabric is stored is free from moisture, and it is neither too hot nor too cold. Insecticides and pesticides are used to keep the textiles safe from insects and pests and their bites and littering. The sheets are never nailed or stapled as it can stain the piece after a certain period of time owing to their rust. Lighting conditions in rooms are adjusted as per the requirements of the museum, and many textile museums prohibit visitors from touching the artifacts completely.
These museums have, so far, remained successful in preserving the most ancient textiles and textile art forms of the world. The Fashion and Textile Museum in Paris has a collection of around 30,000 pieces of textile and 16,000 costumes on display. The Victoria and Albeit Museum, UK houses a fine collection of dresses from the 17th century, the Ardabil Carpet, and many other artifacts which are no less than wonders. This museum is partially closed to visitors owing to renovations. But it promises ample of excitement once the renovation work is done with. It is one of the favorite destinations for tourists in UK. Textile museums all over the world have something unique to display, which would be very hard to find in the world outside. That is how they keep the history of the time alive.
Textiles that are around 2000 years old, from the time of around 100 BC to 300 BC, are still preserved in the Brooklyn museum. These textiles were used to wrap dead bodies in order to preserve the bodies for a long period of time. The bodies were mummified, and the textiles used in the process were also appropriately treated to prevent its decaying. These textiles had images of flying shamans holding a human head and a knife. They were made out of alpaca or ilama wool, and were possessed only by the super rich. These textiles give a glimpse of the lifestyle and cultural beliefs of the people residing at that point of time. They enrich history books by imparting useful information to researchers around the world.
In the textile museum of Washington, DC, founded by George Hewitt Myers, ancient textiles from non-western cultures can be found. Textiles, dating from the time as early as 3000 BC, can be found in this museum. Ancient rugs and carpets from all over the world are found in the museum. Other than that, textiles from India, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Persia, Turkey, Greece, China, Japan, and Africa can be found in this museum. This information is a useful source for students, trying to explore history and civilization. It is equally a source of inspiration for fashion students and textile journalists.
Government support is not mandatory for museums. Many renowned textile museums around the world are privately funded. Museums, often, are a part of a giant group. They make up for their expenses (for staff and maintenance) by charging a small fee as entry fee. They also involve in publication of relevant books and magazines. Though profit is not the main aim of museums around the world, but it can also be reaped by the management. Government funded museums work in accordance to the rules of the respective government. The artifacts inside the museum can be permanently tagged as a museum property and not be allowed to relocate, in case the artifacts have been bought over. However, it is also very common for museums to indulge in shifting of artifacts from one museum to the other after a certain period of time.
Textile museums promote handloom and handicrafts to a certain extent. Ancient hand-made textiles, stitches, embroideries, and fabrics are kept on display in museums. They purchase handicrafts for a good price from handcraftsman and artisans residing in rural areas. Many times, the works of a particular rural area remains in the displays of museums, thereby branding the artwork. Textile museums help in shifting the attention of the masses from high profile designers and manufacturing units to small-time artisans of the past and present. They contribute to the overall economy of the country, especially in the case of emerging economies.
A popular proverb goes thus history repeats itself! Textile museums help in keeping the history alive. Ancient art forms and embroideries are many times revived after getting inspiration from textile museums. There are a number of textile museums around the world, and they contribute towards the global textile industry in their own way. They are not just buildings that display ancient textile art, but are objects of historical significance. They not only contribute towards the global textile and fashion industry, but also have a role to play in study of history which is ultimately helpful in all the fields.