Introduction Textiles are some of the most expressive forms of cultural heritage that exist in museums and family collections. They are commonly composed of organic materials of individual fibers that are woven together to form a fabric. Some textiles and textile-based artworks can also include inorganic components including metals or composites. The purpose of the textile is important when considering the desired outcome of the treatment. For example, dresses were made to be worn and should therefore not be stored flat as this can create creases and irreversibly damage the fibers. The information provided here relates to basic concepts of mounting textiles for display or storage.
Deterioration Textiles and the individual fibers that are used in their making can be affected by a variety of deterioration factors. Some of these include:
- UV Light Exposing textiles to ultraviolet light can cause severe and irreversible damage to textiles. In addition to dyes and inks fading, organic based fibers undergo a chemical change through the absorption of energy resulting in brittleness.
- Biodeterioration This term describes deterioration that occurs due to organisms such as insects and mold.
- Humidity High humidity increases the chances of biodeterioration and can cause some materials to swell. Metal elements of the textile can also corrode causing staining and material loss.
- Dust and Pollutants Pollutants in our everyday environment can cause damage to textiles by retaining moisture creating microclimates or causing particulate matter to attach to the fibers.
The preservation and condition of a textile largely depends on the materials used to make the textile and the environment that it has been subjected to.
Preparation Processes Textiles can be preserved for generations to come if cared for in the appropriate manner. Conservation processes for textiles can include mechanical cleaning techniques that aim to remove surface particulate matter or more advanced procedures that require “wet cleaning”. Over time, the fibers of a textile can become weak and surface decorations can lift from the fabric so it is very important to contact a conservator for advice if cleaning is necessary before hand. Be sure to examine the textile for signs of weak areas before handling and always be sure to have clean hands or to use gloves.
Mounting Considerations The main goal when considering the best method to mount a textile is to provide a support so that no single area of the textile is under stress. Some of the several factors to take into account include:
- Size of the textile The larger the textile, the more contact points are needed.
- Weave A loosely woven textile will likely require support over the entire material. Hanging it from a few attachment points will cause it to sag or drape.
- Material type More fragile type of fabrics, such as silk, also requires support over the entire surface to prevent permanent deformation to the fibers.
- Weight If a textile is very heavy in weight, you need to consider where you will be placing it. Be sure to use a mounting point (such as the studs in a house environment) that will not fail under continual stress.
- Condition Older textiles or those that are in a more fragile state should be uniformly supported.
Mounting Options Depending on the above factors, you may consider one of the following mounting options:
- Pressure Mount This technique is often used in museums to provide the best possible uniform support for textiles. In addition to being a reversible method, it creates an attractive display. The textile is displayed flat by placing it between a cushion and the display window causing it to be held in place by a slight pressure. Some stitching may be required. https://museum.gwu.edu/framing-textiles
- Attaching to a Support If you would like to display or store a textile without a frame or cover, another consideration is to create a padded mount that the textile is then attached to using unobtrusive stitching. Supports could include stretchers, aluminum comb panels, and archival board.
- Unidirectional Hanging In this mounting method, a textile is hung from a support that is provided from the top and the remainder of the textile is allowed to fall vertically. Supports can include:
- Velcro strips
- Padded hangers
- Sleeve (Stitching to an archival quality textile)
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