Making the Invisible Visible: Conservation and Islamic Art

April 2–August 4, 2013

Mounting and Display of Textiles

Janina Poskrobko
Conservator, Department of Textile Conservation

The manner in which textiles are displayed is determined by the condition of a textile as well as the materials and techniques used in its fabrication. Some of the methods most frequently used by the Museum's textile conservators to ensure the collection's long-term preservation are represented in the exhibition.

A well-preserved textile, such as the fragment from the dalmatic of San Valerius (46.156.10), can be displayed in a vitrine on a flat or slanted, low-angled support without any mounting as long as the ambient environmental conditions and lighting levels are suitably controlled.

Fragile textiles are often pressure mounted, which involves positioning a textile on a solid cushioned support without any stitches and holding it in place with light pressure from a Plexiglas sheet or box (fig. 1). This type of sealed mounting, used for the double-faced Kashan tapestry (43.84), allows for complete reversibility and environmental control. In addition, pressure-mounted textiles can be hung vertically.

Large textiles and those in varying states of preservation can be partially displayed. For example, one end of the chadar (41.19) is displayed in the exhibition on a slanted mount after consolidation to a support fabric, while the rest remains rolled on a suspended tube.

Finally, the safe display of a fragile costume such as the child's coat (1983.494.10) requires the insertion of archival materials to support its weight and restore its original shape. In this case, couching stitches secured areas of loss to an underlying support fabric of compatible color (fig. 2 a–c).

Fig. 1. Cross-section of a single pressure mount. Diagram by Florica Zaharia

Fig. 2. Bottom edge of a child's coat, before, during and after treatment. Photographs by Kisook Suh