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Textiles Studio

At the Textiles Studio, or Conservation Studio for Historical and Contemporary Textiles, Clothing and Accessories, we focus on a wide variety of heritage items. Our starting point? Interdisciplinary research to understand the object's materiality and the context in all its dimensions. This results in treatment with minimal intervention and maximum respect for the historical and present-day function.

Research and historical reconstruction

Our conservation experts strive to understand the historical and cultural significance and context of the objects entrusted to them. How were they used during their 'active life', before they were given heritage status? How have they fared since then? And what traces of this can be found in their material biography?

Our research usually starts with an extensive condition check. We then analyse the materials and techniques used. Technical analyses of historical fabrics and handles take place in the studio itself. In tandem with the Textiles Lab, we identify the fibres and dyes, the composition of metal threads, etc. The Radiocarbon Dating Lab, in turn, can shed light on the production period of older textile items. Elements in other materials are analysed in collaboration with the specialists in the various laboratories of the Institute.

Because we focus on items that raise special issues, preliminary research is a fascinating quest. It often leads to unexpected discoveries and leads on to further conservation choices.

Griet Kockelkoren, head of the studio

Each step in the investigation is thoroughly documented. For this, we can rely on the expertise of our photographers, among others. The images are available to everyone via BALaT, and the research data is carefully stored in our archives.

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What items arrive into our studio?

We research and treat items with textiles, or linked to textile collections, from cultures worldwide. These objects can be:

  • interior elements with textiles, such as carpets and tapestries or chairs with textile coverings
  • clothing and accessories
  • liturgical textiles
  • dolls and puppets
  • archaeological textile fragments
  • objects made of feathers or even tree bark.

These items are often composed of a variety of materials, both natural and synthetic.

A tailor-made approach

In the studio, we see diverse items with specific or unusual issues regarding conservation or degradation phenomena. This requires a tailor-made approach. The preliminary investigation is the foundation for understanding the 'material traces' in the items and mapping the item's conservation needs. Together, these elements are the key to determining an optimal conservation treatment tailored to each unique item.

Our conservation treatments aim towards minimal intervention with maximum respect for the item's historical and present-day functions. Our experts carry out the treatments with the utmost care and skill.

Lively exchange of knowledge

Depending on the item, its context, composition and the conservation issue, we don't just work together with the conservation specialists in our studio. It is often crucial to have input from internal and external colleagues from other conservation-restoration disciplines, image specialists and (art) historians. In addition to our extensive national network, we are in constant contact with experts worldwide to exchange knowledge and experience and keep abreast of the latest insights and treatment methods.

We are also happy to share our years of expertise with the international conservation world through internships for experienced colleagues or master's students.

By literally working side by side, there is always an exciting exchange of knowledge. It is enriching for us and for the external colleague or trainee who takes home a rucksack full of knowledge. The delicate and unique heritage items entrusted into our care benefit greatly from these exchanges.

Wies Stortelder, textiles expert

Sustainably preserved, superbly presented

We don't just look into the past of each unique item in our care but also towards its future. The conservation studio has built up a great deal of expertise over the years by developing museum-quality and object-safe forms of support, manipulation systems, packaging and customised presentations. In this way, we ensure that these fragile objects, which usually do not have a rigid structure, are preserved in the most sustainable way possible. In doing so, we like to work with the Preventive Conservation Unit.

We attach great importance to the aesthetics of the presentation systems. After all, it is crucial for the legibility of the exhibits. In this way, we want current and future generations to enjoy the beauty of these unique objects.

Griet Kockelkoren, head of the studio

Do you have any questions or want more information? Please contact us!

Griet Kockelkoren
Griet Kockelkoren
Head

Our experts

Judith Goris
Show email
Jefta Lammens
Wies Stortelder