FAQ - Frequently
What is textile conservation, what is
Textile conservation describes the
measures taken to
preserve historical textile
works of art and objects.
A technical examination and documentation
are the first steps taken to determine the
importance of the object and its material condition. Conservation
stabilization of its
existing state, prevention of
further damage and steps to
slow down normal organic decay.
The term textile "restoration"
continues to be used in Europe in place of or in addition to textile "conservation".
conservation and textile restoration are not interchangeable.
allows for an understanding of the
object that has been (partially) lost due to damage or decay. The
restoration can - in most cases -
play a role in the conservation process. For
example, a burial robe with
a missing part can be underlaid with a
fabric, which is needed for the conservation process.
As a result, the damaged textile is stabilized
by the support fabric and allows for the robe to be seen as optically
complete. The eye does not focus on the
missing parts or imperfections, but allows
the object to be seen as a whole.
Restoration alone describes the recreation of a
missing part, for example to re-weave a hole in a tapestry with the
What is the difference between
conservator and restorer?
Both terms are still
used synonymously in the context of textile conservation. The
English-speaking countries use the term "conservator", the German- and
Roman-speaking countries prefer the term "restorer" as a professional
title. The term "conservator" is used in German for professions that
deal in the broader sense with the care and preservation of works of
art. This shoud not be confused with the very
specialized profession of textile
conservation. Often, these conservators are art historians by training.
The textile conservator/restorer
is not yet a protected job title.
Therefore, there are
well-defined requirements from
the International Council of Museums (ICOM) that anyone who works
as a textile conservator must meet.
I am creative, love arts and crafts. Would
textile conservation be a profession for me?
Conservation involves manual
dexterity, but is not artistic or creative, as sometimes assumed.
Textile conservation is a technical profession. As in surgery,
where a surgeon works primarily with his hands,
conservation is linked to extensive theoretical knowledge and
experience. Conservation requires fundamental knowledge in science.
The basis of the profession requires: inorganic and organic
chemistry, textile chemistry, biology, physics, microscopy, and
weave analysis (see ICOM, paragraph 5 "Training
and Education of the Conservator-Restorer"). These
subjects are mandatory for a successful
completion of a conservation
degree. Some subjects e.g. chemistry, physics
and biology can even be prerequisites for the
application to a university
for a degree in textile conservation.
Mastering art history and scientific writing
is highly advantageous. It is necessary to
produce technical documentation and reports and to understand analytical
articles and research. "The creativity in this
profession lies only in its problem solving"
(Dr. Regula Schorta, Director of the Abegg Foundation). The student
acquires a Master's Degree
(MA in conservation-restoration) usually in a five-year
you are interested in the subjects mentioned above
and do not shy away from the technical and scientific
aspects of the profession, there
are no obstacles in obtaining a degree in textile
Should I apply for an
You should definitely complete an
internship. However, an internship alone is by no means a substitute for
a university degree in textile conservation.
internship is in some cases a prerequisite for admission to study at a
recognized university or university-level institution
in the field of textile conservation. An
internship will also help you learn if
you have the necessary fine motor skills for
I own a valuable textile object that I would
like to preserve. How do I find a suitable textile conservator?
A search on the web will reveal many
sites for textile conservators. However, one
should critically examine the qualifications. This means that the
selected person should have a degree in textile
conservation and - depending on the value of
the object - also be able to produce
corresponding references. A membership in a
restorers/conservation guild or organisation
does not guarantee a person's qualification. The best way to
inform oneself is a personal discussion with
the textile conservator in question.