Let’s be honest, nearly every city in the world has a museum with some clothing or textile objects in their collection. But which of these collections are worth visiting? Well, of course that depends on your needs. Perhaps you are doing research on a historical figure and you would like to see his hat. Maybe you are interested in local textile production and would like to see a particular style of regional cross-stitching. But while MOST people can’t go to EVERY museum, maybe they’re traveling to a new country (vacation in Italy!) or researching a particular time period (1920’s beaded dresses!) and they want to know which are the BEST museums to go to. What is worth your time and money to travel to? Now that so many collections are available online, museums need to be clearer about why visitors or researchers should travel to see their collection. A municipal museum that has a few dressed mannequins in a display of period rooms might be very proud of their few cherished 18th century gowns, and may inspire or delight the average visitor, but any researcher (or fashion lover) who has been to the V&A or the Met or Musée de la mode would not need to go out of their way to see it. The biggest flaw in museum textile collections is their lack of clearly stating the size, range, and unique qualities to their collection clearly on their website, to let potential visitors or researchers know what they have.
If you are wondering why a museum isn’t listed, the following might help! The process of selection in order to be listed in this website looks somewhat like this:
These museums are the main focus of this website. The collections are solid contributors to the field of fashion studies, curation, and conservation, and their visual presence helps to further the discipline with audiences who are both experts in the field or simply interested visitors.
- The museum focuses specifically on fashion and/or textiles (ex. Fashion Museum in Bath)
- The museum has a collections department focused on fashion and/or textiles, with a permanent gallery devoted to their collection (ex. Victoria & Albert Museum)
- The museum has a collections department focused on fashion and/or textiles, with frequent temporary exhibits devoted to their collection (ex. Metropolitan Museum of Art)
- All above museums showcase their fashion & textile collections on their website and have digital libraries available for at least part of their collection.
These collections, while perhaps not world-class, are nonetheless important, either for individual pieces in their collection, or for highlighting local production. Particularly good for travelers who happen to be in the area or are looking for a small local collection in a particular region to study.
- The museum has important clothing or textiles as a part of their permanent display (ex. The Egtved Girl at the National Museum in Copenhagen)
- The museum has a fashion and/or textile collection which is displayed in the museum (ex. The Nordic Museum in Stockholm)
- The museum has a display on local textile production and/or local folk dress (ex. The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History in Oslo)
- All above museums have these elements clearly accessible on their website to let visitors know of their importance to the museum, and may include photos of highlights from the collection
These museums may have a fashion and/or textiles department, they may employ fashion and/or textile curators and/or conservators, and they may incorporate their objects into displays, but there is no clear and compelling reason for someone to go out of their way to visit the collection. The biggest penalty here is when the collection does not have a visible presence on the website. If the museum does not think it is that important, why would a potential visitor?
- There is little fashion and/or textiles on permanent display
- There are not regular exhibitions devoted to fashion and/or textiles
- The above museum do not have information about their fashion and/or textiles collection on their website
To see some Suggested Guidelines for museum websites in advertising their textiles collection, click here.
If your museum fits in to category one or two and yet is not listed on this website, please contact us!
If your museum has expanded its exhibition space or updated its website to better reflect the textile collection, please contact us!
If your museum would like to hire a consultant on how to better showcase their textile collection to potential visitors or researchers, click here.