By Camille Myers Breeze
The latest in our series of MTS Handouts is called Displaying Textiles, and is designed to help you choose the best locations and methods for displaying your textiles.
By the time you see visible changes, such as color fading, yellowing, tears, or insect activity, your textile has already been irreversibly damaged. Continuing to display a textile under poor display conditions will accelerate deterioration and shorten the textile’s useful and/or decorative lifespan. Having a textile conservator stabilize the textile can allow it to be displayed again, but only if sensible precautions are taken.
Displaying a textile in a frame with no glazing, or with non-filtering glazing, is harmful to the textile. Anything framed prior to the 1980s will have plain glass or acrylic with no ultraviolet-filtering capacities. All framed textiles should be retrofitted with UV-filtering glazing or stored safely. Even with UV-filtered glazing, a framed textile can be harmed by light, particularly sunlight, which heats up the fibers causing harmful expansion and contraction.
Tapestries, quilts, and other large, flat textiles, can be safely displayed on a wall without a display case if the conditions in the room are suitable. Once a safe location has been determined to hang your flat textile, a conservator can provide a Velcro hanging system. Ideally, two textiles, such as two similarly-sized quilts, will be rotated to allow each one six months on display followed by six months in an archival storage box kept in a safe location.
For more information about this important subject, read the entire Displaying Textiles Handout, which is available with all of our free handouts in the resources section of the MTS website.