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Textile conservation

conservator fitting a dress ona mannequin

National Museums Liverpool has a superb array of costume and textiles. This ranges from ancient Egyptian mummy wrappings to contemporary high street fashion.

Textiles surround us in our daily lives. The collections reflect their value, use and significance to societies around the world. We care for items as diverse as oriental silk robes and hangings, one of the finest collections of early English embroidery in the country and military uniforms, flags and banners. We also have more commonplace items connected to particular Liverpool families or individuals such as clothes, souvenirs and dolls.

front and side view of a simple grey suit displayed on a mannequin

John Lennon's suit. Accession number WAG 1996.4a

The conservation of textiles has two major aims:

  • To improve the physical and environmental conditions in which items are kept to optimise their long-term chances of survival.
  • To carry out treatments that stabilise their condition and enables them to be better appreciated by visitors to the galleries. During the conservation process the close examination of textiles we are working on sometimes brings up further evidence of their history, use and construction.

We are involved with many aspects of museum activities:

  • We prepare items for display - both long term and temporary.
  • We conserve items to go on loan.
  • We are involved in education and outreach programmes, giving talks and behind the scene tours. Specialist interest groups often approach us to provide tailor made sessions.
  • We help train new conservators, taking interns from courses in the UK and abroad.
small round hat with a wide, high brim decorated with colourful embroidery

Embroidered hat from Bhutan in the Himalayas

The textile conservation section shares studio space with the organics sections. We have two large studios that are designed to be as flexible as possible. They have fold-away tables and benches on castors. One has all the facilities we need for wet / ‘dirty’ treatments such as cleaning, dyeing and fibre identification. The other has special lighting for close up work. We also have a separate studio for long-term projects.

With these fantastic facilities we are able to maintain a busy program conserving the textiles in our care.

Further information

Contact the department

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