Chintz at the ROM, Greek textiles and collection cataloguing

 

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A major exhibition on Indian Chintz was due to open at the Royal Ontario Museum this Spring, but has had to be postponed due to the current situation. However all is not lost. The exhibition curator, OATG member Sarah Fee, will be in conversation with Anjli Patel this Wednesday 15 July. They will be examining the chintz collection “from the importance of historical pieces to the work of top designers embracing this heritage textile today.” ROM website. Sign up here for this free event which takes place at 4pm Ontario time (9pm GMT).

 

In addition to this presentation, the ROM has lots of fascinating information on the history and use of chintz on its website. This includes a look back at an earlier exhibition on chintz which took place in 1970 and a look at the global impact of Indian chintz. Why not immerse yourself in their website for a couple of hours?

 

Pages from an Embroideries Notebook of 1907, written by the author’s grandfather Alan J. B. Wace who was Keeper of Textiles at the V&A from 1924-1934

Now to a completely different topic – collecting, and more importantly, cataloguing and recording collections. This Hali article by Ann French, Collections Care Manager and Conservator (Textiles) at the Whitworth Art Gallery, looks at the role of archives in increasing our understanding of textiles. French examines how with “the opening up of museum archives, online availability of collections and access to others including family archives, a more complex picture of the interconnections, academic influences and research methods behind the early collecting of Greek embroideries is gradually emerging.” The aim is to re-catalogue certain collections of Greek embroideries, taking all of this new information into account. She discusses trying to trace a single object – in this case an embroidery from Melos – from the various recorded notes. This takes us on a journey from Liverpool to Cleveland Ohio, and from the V&A to the Textile Museum in Washington. A very detailed and interesting article .

Pholegandros pillowcase.

The importance of accurate recording of a collection was brought home to me by this statement from the article by Ann French:-

“This preservation together of labels and notebooks raises the issue of what conservators call the 10th Agent of Deterioration—Dissociation. Dissociation describes the loss of object-related data and therefore the ability to retrieve or associate objects and data. It affects the intellectual, and/or cultural aspects of an object as opposed to the other ten agents of deterioration (light, temperature etc.), which mainly affect the physical state of objects. Dissociation is a metaphysical agent and is prevented by maintaining and appreciating archives which make connections possible.” Ann French.

 

I was recently contacted by OATG member Nick Fielding on the same subject. We started a discussion on the different methods used to record private collections. As this is clearly a topic of interest to many of our members I’m including a request for suggestions on record-keeping from Nick in full below.

I am embarking on the daunting prospect of creating a virtual catalogue of Sheila Paine’s textile collection. It is ‘virtual’ because the collection itself has been broken up and is now scattered to the four corners of the globe. However, I have the card index files for each textile and, separately, photographs of each textile. Can anyone suggest a database or specific software that could be used to do this? I need approximately ten fields for info such as date of purchase, index number, location, description, price paid, etc, plus the facility of including up to five photographs for each entry. I know that museums use such (searchable) databases, but does anyone know of similar software for personal use? The aim is to produce a single searchable document of the whole collection that can then be stored by an institution or by individuals. It will be an invaluable research tool. When I have finished with Sheila’s records, I will embark on the same project in relation to my own collection. That should keep me busy for the next year or so…” 

If you have any useful suggestions – or indeed suggestions of methods to avoid – please email Nick directly. We will share this information at a later date.

 

Returning to the subject of Greek embroidery, I really enjoyed this short video by the Benaki Museum which focusses on 18th century bridal bolsters from Ioannina. It is presented in Greek by Xenia Politou, the curator of Modern Greek Culture, but has English subtitles.

 

In it Politou discusses the fascinating iconography depicted on these beautifully embroidered bolsters. We learn that the partridge is linked to fertility and that the hairpin, which looks like a branch, worn by the bride denoted a married woman. The links to the Ottomans are clear from the style of dress and the floral motifs used here can also be found on Iznik ceramics.

 

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