Readdressing dress and tackling textiles: conservation, preservation and research in action.

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by Jennifer Hilder (PhD Intern)

The Dress and Textiles theme is lead by Dr Anita Quye and, as Anita said in her presentation at Industry Day 2013, the college’s Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History is already a shining example of the incredible benefits of collaboration and partnership. Existing partnerships include Glasgow Museums, the Scottish Business Archive, and the University’s own collections.

The college is lucky to have a range of expertise including historians, curators, and conservation scientists. This gives us the ability to look at textiles holistically, from all angles, bringing together academic research, cutting-edge scientific knowledge and practical experience. Among the college’s particular interests are fashion and dress, the decorative art, furnishing arts and modern textile arts – the last being a relatively new area within the creative industries.

The college’s postgraduate programmes encourage students to work with external organisations at an early stage, meaning that organisations benefit from their new insights and ideas, while students gain essential experience of working with collections. One such conservation project was carried out by final year MPhil students on a red and gold jacket worn by Galloway militia found in the Dumfries museum. Another student worked with the Fashion Museum in Bath to produce a catalogue of under-recognised fashion designer Jo Mattli’s press books and drawings. Julie Wertz, a PhD student, also gave a presentation at Industry Day on her work about the use and chemistry of Turkey red dye in late nineteenth century Glasgow.

Looking at Dress and Textiles allows us to understand more about what objects mean and what stories we can tell about them, as with the project looking at the significance of reds and yellows in the textiles of the Chinese imperial courts. Another project looks at how to conserve the gold and silver wrapped threads from Famen Temple Silk in the Tang Dynasty. Even dirt is not overlooked by these experts, who help curators and conservationists make informed decisions about whether or not to remove sooty deposits from historical textiles. The Flag of the Formosa Republic, a cultural icon in Taiwan, has also benefitted from the college’s expertise and can now be displayed in the national museum. Closer to home, the college works with the Shetland Museum, looking at the significance of hand-knitted textiles (including lace and the Sanquhar knit designs) in Scotland’s economic past, present and future. Others are working on a larger project to contextualise (‘ReINVENT’) Scotland’s rich textile manufacturing heritage.

The stories that are told about these visually exciting objects can capture the imaginations of an audience and really engage the public with the work that is being done. Hopefully these stories will also encourage organisations in this fascinating industry to approach the College of Arts to collaborate on their own projects.

Post Author: Nicole Cassie

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