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Title:Managing textile collections
Author(s):Green, Sara Wolf
Subject(s):Preservation of textile collections
Conservation of textile collections
Abstract:A discussion of the care of textiles in a proceedings concerned primarily with library and archive collections may seem somewhat out of place. However, experience and observation show us that few collecting institutions have been able, historically, to stick to their specific acquisitions mission, even if that mission is stated rather than merely implied. As the responsibilities of collections care have become more complex, it has been necessary to evolve management concepts that organize and prioritize activities related to collection preservation, security, and accessibility. The truly disastrous situations stemming from nonexistent collections management policies or improper use or maintenance of collection materials tend to be the cases which make national news. However, the simple neglect of collections held in the public trust, regardless of their real or perceived value, constitutes a direct attack to the foundation of those ideas and ideals which are embodied in terms like cultural patrimony. Surely, the deterioration of a diary kept by a pioneer woman on the lonely, wind-swept plains of the early nineteenth-century American West does not threaten civilization. Certainly, greater menaces are an increasing lack of clean air and water, a deteriorating ozone layer, worldwide hunger, and economic and political instabilities. And yet, art, literature, and music are our humanity: the translation of the living to representation. In his 1987 address, "The Moral Imperative of Conservation," Librarian of Congress James H. Billington spoke eloquently of the absolute necessity to preserve the artifacts of civilization because they embody that civilization's collective memory: "The authentically preserved artifact or text presents us with instructions about where we are and where we might be going as well as where we have been" (Billington, 1987, p. 3). But it is the artifact, not the idea, that must be preserved. It is the artifact that makes possible the instruction. How do textiles fit into such an existential interpretation of cultural patrimony? If existence and humanity can be defined in terms of Homer or Hemingway, textiles are at least a partial definition of humanness. To use clothing as a very simple example, textiles both create individuality and definition, as in a one-of-a-kind, designer evening gown; or supply anonymity and inclusion, as in a military uniform. If the case has been made for the necessity of preserving textiles, a mechanism must be provided to support that goal. In order to develop a preservation strategy, the fundamental causes of the deterioration of those materials must be understood, as well as the techniques which are available for eliminating, or at the very least, slowing down the deterioration processes.
Issue Date:1991
Publisher:Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Citation Info:In K.L. Henderson and W.T. Henderson (eds) Conserving and preserving material in nonbook format (Papers presented at the Allerton Park Institute November 6-9, 1988): 113-126.
Series/Report:Allerton Park Institute (30th : 1988)
Genre:Conference Paper / Presentation
Publication Status:published or submitted for publication
Date Available in IDEALS:2007-04-10

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