Textiles are the image of the cultural heritage of any place at a point of time, so it needs to be preserved for future generation. But textiles are fragile in nature and are going to deteriorate if proper care is not taken. Documentation is one of the alternatives. Analytical data reflecting to historical, technical and aesthetic of the craft must be covered in the documentation. By documenting artifacts in detail the knowledge of traditional textile can be disseminated to the future generation which may not have the privilege to see the artifacts physically and appreciate it.

Documentation is essential to the advancement of research, teaching and learning, and also to capture our cultural memory and preserve the human record for future generation. There are three methods to document, i.e. Textual, Visual and Audio Visual documentation which can be in multiple formats and are usually used in conjunction. The choice of methods in which work is documented is up to the discretion of the conservator based on the object on that work is going on.

1. Textual Documentation


It is an essay style form which records the conservation work in a sentence structure or a point form structure on an open page. It gives written information about the document but much depends on the conservator as how and what he documents. It takes more time comparatively and is laborious also. This type is considered as ideal type of documentation as it gives the original picture of the document in narrative form. The viewer need not touch the fragile artifact again and again and cause damage. Also it is useful when the artifact is not available physically.

Check - List:

The check-list style of documentation form has become more popular in use for several reasons. For this type of documentation, standard list of the content required for documentation is used and the information is recorded. It gives standardized information and helps conservators also to ensure that all the required information is there. It is easy to retrieve information as the information is categorized properly. The major disadvantage is its limitation in providing flexibility to change the pre-prepared data according to the requirement of individual artifacts. This type of documentation is preferred when number of items of same class with similar characteristics needs to be documented.

2. Visual Documentation

This type of documentation has the advantage of more clarity as the objects are being viewed by the person in its original form. This is recommended to address a large group. Different forms of visual documentation are:


Photography is one of the most effective methods. Different forms of photographs can be used for documentation. It can be done as black and white or coloured. Slides can be prepared for this type of documentation. The intention of a photograph can be: to illustrate the extent and location of damage and/or deterioration; to show details of new or old information contained in the object; to indicate the size of the entire object or the normal location of the object; to show the colouring of certain parts of the object or the entire object; and, amongst many others, to illustrate analytical or technical work or results.



Illustration is type of documentation done as pencil drawing with description of the object in detail which includes title, condition of the object, dates etc and signed by the documenter. Illustrations can be used alone or to supplement photography but are generally used to clarify information in detailed in the report. Illustrations, done properly, will take time but the effort will be appreciated. Illustrations are generally used where flat sketches are required. Sometimes if the expression, flow or mood needs to be documented, this method is effective.

X Radiography:

To document the internal condition/structure of a complex object X-radiography is the best method. By using this method for documentation, the image of the material and structure of the artifacts which cannot be seen through naked eyes can be recorded. In the case of photography and illustration, labelling is done but the difference is the mention of choice of voltage also needs to be recorded. The length of exposure to the X-rays along with the type of film used should be documented. In case of textiles, its use is limited as its exposure to X-Radiography may cause damage to the textiles.

3. Audio Visual Documentation

Film Strips:

For this 35mm film is used. Documentation is in the sequence of still pictures. Each picture has individual frames on 35mm film. Each strip contains from 12 to 18 or more pictures. Typically, a film strip's running time is between 10 to 20 minutes. This type of documentation is effective for showing the process of particular artifact especially the dyeing process or specialized weaving process.

Discussion Filmstrips:

It is a continuous strip of film consisting of individual frames arranged in sequence usually with explanatory titles.

Sound Slide Film:

It is similar to film stripes but instead of explanatory title or spoken discussion, recorded explanation is audible which is synchronized with pictures.


* These are compact, easy to handle and always in proper sequence.

* They are inexpensive when reproduction is required.

* They increase understating and retention.

* They can stimulate the development of understanding and attitudes.

* They make documentation as an effective process and serve as preservation tools.



Rich traditional crafts which can be categorized in to vanishing arts need to be preserved. The proper knowledge documentation of rare textiles will provide long term easy access to the data and will also serve as ready reference as textiles may deteriorate over the period of time. In museums all the artifacts cannot be displayed.

Today, use of digital technology has become a compelling force motivating to museums and other related institutions to experiment with newly developed hardware and software which is helpful tool in accessing, cataloguing and analyzing the artifacts. The in-depth knowledge regarding this will help in selection of appropriate technology which can be used to its maximum. Thus, it will help in preserving the rare specimens of textiles for a longer period of time.