Care of textile and costume collections in small museums and historical societies

Kira L Moynihan, University of Rhode Island


Small museums and historical societies often have very little funding and, therefore, are unable to hire specialized staff, or may be run by volunteers. Typically, the staff may have a basic understanding of how to care for collections in general, but are uninformed about the proper care of historic costume and textile collections. Lack of training and knowledge can lead to neglect, mishandling, or damaging methods of care. The researcher interviewed untrained staff and volunteers who care for costume and textile collections to ascertain their needs for information on storage, exhibition, and repair and stabilization. The interviewees representing five small historical societies and museums identified repair and stabilization as their greatest area of concern. Tours through their storage and exhibition areas indicated their need for additional help in these areas. In response to the interviewer's questions and observations, this thesis provides guidelines to three key topics. A chapter on storage covers appropriate environments, preparation for storage, storage methods, and materials. The exhibition chapter explains short term vs. long term exhibits, lighting, displaying objects, pressing and steaming, and mounting. A third chapter provides information on repair and stabilization to provide confidence in making decisions about materials, techniques, stitches, and when to consult a professional conservator. Photographs illustrate techniques, equipment, and other examples to help the staff and volunteers understand the instructions.

Subject Area

Cultural Resources Management|Museum studies|Textile Research

Recommended Citation

Kira L Moynihan, "Care of textile and costume collections in small museums and historical societies" (2011). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI1500324.