Suruchi Gupta

Fashion

Saving Textiles

by on Oct.30, 2010, under Fashion

Did you know that handling fabrics with a light hand or keeping antique textiles under very low light level can go a long way in preserving it?

Kolkata: Cloth or textile is used by everyone. Yet, it is a matter of concern that nothing has been done on the conservation and preservation front. Non-profit society Sutra, in collaboration with Botanical Survey of India, Indian Museum, Kolkata, Victoria and Albert Museum (VAM), UK, and ICCR organised a weeklong workshop and seminar programme, titled Raksha recently.

The focus of the programme was how to conserve the multitude of textile and textile traditions present in museum collections and with commoners, private collectors, etc, who treasure textiles, but do not know who to take care of it.

“I felt there was an urgent need for a textile conservation programme here, and so we invited the VAM experts for it,” said Amrita Mukherjee, VP, Sutra.

“India has the most incredible textile heritage. Through Sutra we can save this heritage. There is greater awareness today in India than what was present say five years back that textile needs to be looked after properly, but we see that the training for basic storage quality is missing here,” said Lynda Hillyer, retired head of textile conservation at Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

“We have specialised people in India, but they don’t know the modern techniques of conservation. At Raksha there was a hands-on workshop by the VAM on introductory principles of the conservation. We were surprised at the immense response and interest from people. We thought only museums and such other conservators would be interested, but here natural fabric dyers, curators, textile collectors, authors and many others came,” shared Swati Nandi, project coordinator, Raksha.

Beginning with general instructions like how to handle fabrics with a light hand, to keeping antique textiles under very low light level and supporting them properly, to ways of protecting it from pest and displaying it correctly on museums, and a lot more, a myriad of techniques and tips were given by experts from the London museum.

“If not conserved properly, these textiles will fall apart from museum displays soon enough. For all those garments kept in some corner of the house, inherited from grandmothers or cherished for their memory, conservation is extremely important,” believes Swati.

Hillyer said in her tours of museums in India, and seeing private collections too, she has witnessed a lot of damage being done to textiles due to poor conservation.

“We are willing to give the museums here a training, and work on options like publishing leaflets, spreading awareness through websites, etc,” said Hillyer.

In her work with tribes in Meghalaya, Preeti Nartiang, student pursuing PhD in textiles from Vishvabharati University, has found that the old weaves and designs of their unique collection is fast being replaced by modern manufactured fabrics, without being conserved.

“I got some antique pieces from these tribes and I have been facing problems in conserving them alongside the other collections I have had. There is a huge lack of awareness on this issue. This workshop was an eye opening one with immensely useful teachings,” said Preeti after attending the worshop.

The importance of the old textile, said the participants and experts is in the fact that they cannot be reproduced after being lost.

“Some of the textiles have weaves or designs that cannot even be reproduced because their techniques are not documented, they are woven only in particular area, and their source of production also not known. In such a scenario, time may come when we only remember them as a fable. So, its best we learn how to preserve them,” said Preeti.

Posted On Tuesday, March 23, 2010

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